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CNF#3: Characterization. Point of View. Writing About Other

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Kevin Chong

on 5 December 2018

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Transcript of CNF#3: Characterization. Point of View. Writing About Other

Memoir:
Telling A Story Twice
Characterization. Writing About Others. Point of View. Research.

Jenny Manzer
The Boy With the Galloping Heart
How does Manzer write about herself and others?
Herself:

"It was my first helicopter ride. For the occasion, I wore a grey-blue hospital gown and a ratty green-knit hoodie."

"My mother had died of cancer, just two days before my wedding. This was more proof that I was cursed."

"I wish I could say I was a noble expectant mother. On the surface, I appeared brave. As a former medical reporter, I was comfortable with doctors and asked careful, rational questions. But deep down, I wanted to send the baby back, start again."

What do these passages do?
Others:

"A perinatologist, looking like a sorcerer in the half-light, performed an ultrasound."

"The sound [of the unborn baby's heartbeat] was a fast runner galloping, galloping, and then falling face down. It was like reading a version of Goodnight Moon that ends with the moon disappearing forever."
Researching Your Own Life
Writing About Others.
We can write about the way someone dresses, where he/she lives, where he/she went to school. We can record our interactions with them, our conversations. Can we write about their thoughts?
How can a memoirist research his or her own past?
Joseph Wambaugh, a police officer and journalist, writing from the POV of Jimmy Smith, a criminal:

"En route he thought that maybe Powell will get
himself
killed. Sure, why not? The cop'll make his call and in 15 minutes there'll be squad cars crawlin' over every inch of that miserable farmland. Powell is nuts. He might try to shoot his way out. Sure."

How does this work as CNF?
"Nothing accomplished."

I don't know what my father meant when he said it. I had asked him, the day before he took his own life, what he was thinking about, and that was his reply. Two hopeless words, spoken in a whisper by a man who felt he had failed on every level. This book is my attempt to prove my father wrong.

--Miriam Toews, "Swing Low," prologue
I'm a methodical man so this business of losing my mind is frustrating. I keep records of everything, every transaction, every purchase, every drawing my children ever made, every notebook they filled as students. Everything. But they're not doing me much good now.
--Toews, writing in his father's voice, "Swing Low," chapter 1
Writing Assignment (from Tilar J. Mazzeo):

Write down ten facts about someone who intrigues you, or someone you consider important.
Now discuss with your neighbour:
1. What was it about this person that led you to choose him/her as a subject?
2. What facts seem essential yo a story and what seems like information?
3. Why are the essential facts essential?
Flashbacks
Requirements

1-2 pages double-spaced
Must be all or mainly scene
Must have two characters
Will be judged for the scene's dramatic impact, characterization, dialogue, writing.
Optional prompts:

Write about a time you took something that belonged to someone else.
Write about a time you tried to leave a place but found it difficult.
Write about the moment where your view of another person completely reversed.
Scene Assignment
Alice Munro: "Every Story is at least two short stories."
Flashbacks &
Subjectivity of 1st person.
Characterization.
How does Bechdel's approach work with non-graphic memoir?
Ingredients of Strong Memoir (thus far)*
1. Starts in media res.
2. Scene and narrative used at right times.
3. Characters struggling (internally and externally).
4. Symbolic detail that touches upon theme.
*Not all are required. There will always be exceptions.
5. A story that works on two levels.
How is the characterization different from the other readings?
Full transcript