Details and Description in Memoir

My inspiration in many ways

            When writing memoir, the author needs to remember that while she can see the cast of characters and the settings in a scene, the reader cannot.
            I didn’t think about this before as I was trying to make word count for the month.  Memoir needs to be populated with three dimensional characters.  Each scene needs to be fully developed.  Memoir needs to be story.  And the reader needs to be immersed in it.
            To interest a reader in fact or fiction, there needs to be a strong storyline.  A problem with an outcome.  An exciting journey.  A protagonist and an antagonist—even if the antagonist is a concept; like in my memoir, time or educational understanding. 
            While I’m moving ahead with my memoir, another 12,000 plus words for February, I need to remember to go back and flesh out specific details and description for the most important cast of characters in the memoir—my family.  I know my husband had a touch of gray in his curly hair, a moustache, and glasses, but the reader doesn’t.  For that matter, the reader doesn’t know that my hair was dark brown and shoulder length when I was attending college. 

            But where do you stick in telling details and description in the story?  You don’t want to bog down the flow of a passage with pages of description.  The best place is to tuck in bits of description within the action of the story. 
            In my memoir, I supply the details of the chemistry lab classroom as I’m immersed in an experiment with my classmates or fretting over a final presentation for class.  Use the senses when describing place.  I needed to allow the reader to see, hear, and smell the classroom.  And in story, allow the reader to suffer along with the protagonist.  Get inside her head, feel the heart pumping and the head pounding.  Don’t forget to show why the characters feel this way. 

Do you have another suggestion to tuck in telling details while keeping the story moving forward?  Please share it with us. 
A story is a living breathing creation.  Make sure your readers feel the same way about your creation.   

10 thoughts on “Details and Description in Memoir”

  1. Fantastic line: "A story is a living breathing creation. Make sure your readers feel the same way about your creation."

    You give great tips. I try to give description in the action whenever I can.

  2. Giving descriptions without overwhelming the reader is very important. Some authors tend to describe way too much. While reading your other blog, I can truly imagine the scene that you are painting without being overwhelmed. I wish I had some advice, but I'm no writer. That's more my husband's thing.

    Keep up the great work!!

  3. I love when the descriptions actually put you right into the scene with overwhelming the reader as Michelle has noted. If your memoir is anything like your blogs, it will be a best seller

  4. Thank you so much, ladies, for visiting my Adventures in Writing blog.

    Thank you, Theresa. I do believe that any good story is a living, breathing creation. I am a voracious reader and love to be totally immersed in a story. Theresa, I know when I read a short story of yours and the passages of your stories that you post on your blog, I am totally involved in what's going on. Thanks for being such a great model for me.

    I agree you both, Michelle and Marie. Readers don't want to be swamped in description. I believe readers want a sense of place and character and to be carried along by the action of the story.

    Michelle, how wonderful that your husband is a writer. I think it's neat to have a writer in the family. Does he write fiction, essays, or poetry? Thank you for reading my Camping with Kids blog about my adventures camping with the family. As a writer, I enjoy keeping a log of our family adventures.

    Marie, you are so sweet. Thank you for your kind words. Let's hope they come true. I'm enjoying writing about my adventures in college with the five children in tow. They have always been my inspiration and my life.

    Thank you again, ladies, for visiting my blog. Please stop by again.

  5. It is true, Theresa. You are a wonderful writer and I wish you all the luck in publication.

    I am making my word count each month, so far. I am enjoying reliving my college days, or should I say years, for it took me ten years to finish my B.A. in English. Of course, these were ten of my children's growing up years as well. And therein lay the adventure and humor going to college with five children in tow.

    Thanks again for visiting my Adventures in Writing blog.

  6. Hi Victoria!

    You have some great tips. I stop reading a book if I can't connect with the characters so yes, a book is a breathing creation!

    All the best with your memoir.


Leave a Comment