Wednesday, June 22, 2011

“Method writing” helps your memoir come alive

"No story has a divine right to be read."
Peter Jacobi

Peter Jacobi reminds us that if we want our children and grandchildren to read our stories, we must craft compelling material. Our stories need more than facts and photos. They need our emotions.

Think about your all-time favorite books and movies. How did they hook you? Answer: Most likely you made an emotional connection with the main characters.

Peter Guber says it this way: “The best stories evoke an emotional response, touch a deep cord.…” (Peter Guber, peter-guber/african-water-rights-in-d_b_633678.html)

Our readers need to enter into our emotion with us. If we can stir up their emotional responses, they’ll more likely read all the way to the end of our stories.

But if you’ve attempted writing your emotion in a given situation, you know that can be a tough challenge so, in Writing Life Stories, Bill Roorbach suggests writers employ method writing, a spin-off of method acting.

Here’s how method acting works: Before the curtain rises, the actor remembers a time in which he experienced the emotion he needs to act out. He spends time reliving that emotion so that when he steps on stage, he is gripped in that emotion and succeeds in playing his part.

Method writing, then, requires you to step out of the present and into the past. Whether you’re writing about a blissful time or a tragic event, take time (make time) to remember the event and rediscover the emotion you felt.

In the midst of reliving that emotion, also reflect on your accompanying thoughts and imaginings. While wrapped up in that past event, ask yourself:

What was at stake? What, in this incident, did I have to lose or gain?

At the time, how did I envision that this situation could change my life?

What were my joys, hopes, fears, and prayers?

When you’re caught up again in that event and emotion, get it onto paper because tension generates reader interest and involvement.

Make your story come alive.

Give it a pulse. A heartbeat.

Make it sing and dance, or sob and wail.

Just be sure it’s alive.

Related posts: No story has a divine right to be read


  1. Thanks, Karen. I can't take any credit for Bill Roorbach's idea, though!

    I'm praying for your family today! :)