Writing Life Stories: Session VII

Writing Life Stories: Session VII

Trespassing upon Memories. Photographer: Lenee Cobb
Trespassing upon Memories. Photographer: Lenee Cobb

We started off this session by diving into memory triggers and then we did it again halfway through the session. We came up with a hoard of ideas.

We covered more about the different methods we can use to show and not tell: ways to use dialogue, and even ways to make the villains in our lives understandable and even sympathetic to our readers.

I believe it is important, when telling our life stories, to delve a little deeper into the psyche, what we now perceive as the psyche, of the villains within our pasts. We will gain understanding of them and ourselves if we allow ourselves to do this. We may not be correct in our assessments, but our readers will know we made the attempt and we just might come off as sounding a little less self-righteous. The reader will also gain understanding of us, the way our mind worked when that episode happened and how we’ve changed since that incident.

Other things we spoke about were the importance of conflict and drama within our life stories: opposing viewpoints, how opposites attract.

One of the students commented she’d heard that when writing a life story, the author should never quote their own words. I begged to differ, and did my best to give examples as to why. There is a vast difference between narration and inner thoughts and speaking aloud. How will we show these differentiations within in our stories? The narrator has every right, in my opinion, to use quotation marks when they are speaking aloud.

What age group are you writing for within your Life Story?

Are your tales meant for children, teens, or adults? Are different stories meant for different age groups? I plan to discuss this more in the weeks ahead.

Using Crude Language in our Life Stories

We revisited the subject of whether or not we should use cuss and swear words when writing about ourselves and/or the characters within our lives. Because these are real life characters within our life stories, I suggested using phonetic dialogue and writing how these people really speak, or spoke. There was a difference of opinion around the classroom about this and I stepped back to qualify my statement.

There, in my opinion, should not be an abundance of bad language in anything we write, I don’t like reading any book that overuses crude language, but there should be a sprinkling if it happened—like seasoning in a well-cooked meal. Too much and the meal tastes terrible. Too little and the meal is bland. But an amount that is just right enhances the meal. In between those sprinkles, good narration can handle the rest. You could write, “He cussed some more,” and leave it at that.

Discussing Death and Murder within a Life Stories Class

Other subjects brought up by the class included drama and trauma. Should we speak of murder and death within the life stories class? Should we share stories on such things with our classmates? These are issues many of us have lived through to “tell the tale” and yet, it surprised me to hear that some life story instructors refuse to cover such topics. Will discussing those subjects negatively affect some classmates who’d rather not discuss the seedier side of life—and death?

Not everyone’s life is made up of peaches and cream and to leave out the most important , potentially life changing episodes is ridiculous. There must be a way to address these things within a classroom that where students can learn—explore—ways they can successfully write about such times and when we should and should not include these episodes within our overall life story.

This is a highly debatable subject. But we do need to learn how best to include or not include such stories within our life story. Perhaps we can approach these subjects with the same constraint that we do when we delicately season our characters linguistic dialogue. What do you think?

This week’s memory triggers

Instructor:

• Murder
• Delinquency
• Survivor
• Chewing tobacco
• Fridays
• Villains who turn into heroes
• Teenagers and their music
• Teenagers: keggers, parties, trespassers, and parental supervision
• Peer pressure

Classmates:

• Release
• Bread and water for supper
• New York Airport
• Shoplifting
• Open-minded
• Consideration
• Individualism
• Songbook of life
• Regrets
• Fishnet stockings
• Guardian angel
• Impact
• Reality
• Focus
• Wet my pants
• Closet cowboy
• Lease
• Dude ranch
• Rattlesnake
• Bee up my sleeve
• Field of sunflowers
• Florida rain

Reader comments on these classes are welcome. What are your thoughts about discussing papers dealing with murder, death, and even insanity within a Life Stories class?

Thank you for participating.

–Coach Cobb

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