What a great question. Every writer needs to pay attention to any story she reads to see if anything is not working or throws the reader out of the story to be sure that the writer doesn’t make the same mistakes in her own manuscripts. This is why it takes me longer to read a book. I’m basically studying how the author created the story and kept the pace moving forward.
As to what makes me question my belief in a story, one thing can be errors in a sense of place. Time. Seasons. Weather. If I know the setting where the story takes place, simple errors in where real businesses lay or the direction of streets can be troublesome for me. Like if the sun sets over the Atlantic in New Jersey in a story, I know that can’t be true—except for the tip of Cape May where the Atlantic meets the Delaware River at Sunset Beach. The writer needs to prove his or her story logic to me for me to be immersed in the story.
One thing that can actually throw me out of a story is if the characters are wooden or not acting logically to themselves. We need to give characters reasons for their actions. We need to dive deeply into the psychology of our characters to see what makes them tick and help the reader to care what happens to them, to connect with them. A story can be filled with action, one harrowing escape or war after another, but if I’m not invested in the protagonist, there is a disconnect between the story and me.
This especially holds true in memoir. If the reader does not care what happens to the protagonist, the memoirist, then no one cares about her story. No matter what the action is. We need to have the reader rooting for the protagonist in either memoir or fiction.
If I say my memoir is about a woman who finally learns to believe in herself through attending college. Good for her but who cares?
But if I say the memoir is about a mother whose lack of belief in herself affects her ability to assist her children, the memoir becomes specific. It becomes personal. It becomes real.
Hopefully, the memoir becomes a story readers will want to read to see how she does it. Seriously, here’s hoping!
I’d love to hear any comments you may have on these two statements of what my college memoir is about. It would be greatly appreciated.
I’ll be interested to see how you’ve tackled this month’s question. It’s great having a topic to share our thoughts on each month. I am extremely thankful for all of you for being my sounding board and advisors in this writing and publishing journey.
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