Moi or Memoir
Last week I saw a facebook survey that gave you points for things you’ve done. (Smoked weed, 10 points, missed curfew, that sort of thing.) I got zero points.
I was wrapped in a blanket of naiveté at birth, raised in a small Midwestern (translate boring) town by two parents (one of each sex), with no step parents (not even an ugly step sister), lots of grandparents, aunts and uncles nearby, (none of whom was disorderly); I was taught by professional teachers (no child molesters or political extremists), had pets (nothing exotic or illegal); had one boyfriend from age 13 to 20 when I married him (virgins on our wedding day) still married 54 years later (no affairs, no divorce). Hardly best seller material, do you think? I’m like 50 Shades of Vanilla.
But, last summer I was signing my books at the resort and one of the guests paged through each of my books then told me she knew who I was after seeing what I wrote about and how I wrote it. She said in my soul I was a Franciscan. I kept her card and I later studied the website for Lay Franciscans. She could be right.
I’ve not written my life, but many characters in my books have borrowed something of me, including opinions. I hadn’t noticed that until the Franciscan woman told me to look for it. Scenes, emotions, conversations and the characters have passed in and out of my life. I think this might be true for all writers. Certainly experience finds its way onto the pages whether we intend it or not. Our beliefs, our values appear either pro or con in what we write, whether or not we intend that.
Write what you know doesn’t mean limit yourself to the boring life you live. If you don’t know something you want to write about, find out about it, learn how to do it, maybe try it, or talk to someone who has. All of a sudden you know about it and now you can write what you know. Research, for me, is one of the most exciting parts of writing. It’s getting to know about something I knew nothing about! And I know nothing about a lot of things.
Whether you write about yourself, someone you know or a fictional character, there will be a little bit of memoir captured there; maybe a little family history, maybe a social cause, perhaps a hobby. My customer made me aware that if it’s in your soul, it will make its way onto a page. Research plus experience plus your soul equals good material to write about.