Monday, April 30, 2012


Your sister has ostracized you; your dad complains of chest pains now, and your only aunt says she’d rather undergo root canal work, anesthesia-free, before she invites you over again, all because you’ve exposed them in your published memoir.  But, is it really your story?

There is much debate over authors writing their memoir, whether it’s to share their triumphs with the world, or to help others, their story is intertwined with someone else’s.  The author’s recounting of events may differ from another family member or friends’ recollection.  Of course, there’s also the factor of subjectivity.

Writing your memoir may seem an easy task; after all, it’s your life and you know it well.  But, people see their lives in snapshots, and not necessarily cohesively like a fictional novel.  The story you tell, is often idiosyncratic in nature, especially if it’s from the perspective of your childhood. 

People are always full of praise for showing them in a favorable light; however, those who are shown in less glorious deeds are apt to make your life miserable or take further action based on your published work.

“For legal purposes, check with your attorney . . .” notes Heather Marie Schuldt, a freelance writer and a member of Writers group.  She also adds, “Defamation is not something you want on your record.” While Heather’s current novel is science fiction, she brings up a valid point.  Writers should be cognizant of using real names of the people they are writing about.

While most memoirs consist of elements of misery and exultations, it’s important to write your memoir from a “healthy place” and not drive the details of occurrences based on feeling victimized or bitter.  In addition, readers want honesty from the author.  They know when they’ve been cheated with loaded euphemisms, and jelly covered truths.  If you can’t state it boldly, don’t write it!

So, is it fair that you should wait to tell your story just because someone will have hurt feelings?  What are you to do?  Wait until they die?  Forget about writing your memoir altogether?

Writers oftentimes do wait to pen their memoir.  The death of a particular family member may be a determining influence.  In fact, writer, Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, suggests that in her blog, ( Waiting until the passing of a family member may be necessary, particularly if the surrounding events were unpleasant.

The writer himself may need to give distance from material that proves too painful to write such as the death of a loved one, abuse, or alcoholism.  There is nothing worse than a reader turning page-after-page, ingesting the words of an author, accusatory in tone, berate someone in their book.  A memoir that lacks in tenacity from its author, falling short of resolve, and missing the acquired “grander lesson,” is tragic.

A writer ponders many scenarios when considering composing their memoir.  The number one concern usually is the backlash from exposing someone in a permanent manner, and without their permission.  A writer also has the right to tell their life experiences without allowing others to pull their strings.

Striking the right cord is crucial when writing your memoir.  Your journey should be at the pulse of the story, not the negative impressions from individuals.   If the author reinterprets the misdeeds caused by others, and turns them into a positive focus, then the book becomes golden.  Readers appreciate when the author prevails over opposition.  It’s relatable and inspiring!

Thank those who’ve attempted to oppress you.  Their intricate role in your dogged conviction, to prove them wrong, by achieving your goals and becoming the success that you are today, are gifts, I’m willing to bet, they hadn’t intended for you to receive. (Copyright © 2012 by Pamela Towns.)

Are you in the process of writing your memoir?  If so, what challenges are you facing?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


There is much debate about the usage of backstory.  If a writer employs too much, it will put the reader into a light slumber.  Not enough will leave the reader perplexed.  So, what’s a writer to do when a character’s past needs to be explained?  How can a writer convey why the protagonist is fearful or delighted about a particular item or event?

Backstory is a way to explain your characters’ history.  Simple as that.    The problem is telling too much at one time and overloading the reader with information they may not care to know or remember.  

Camy Tang writes in her blog, ( How to write backstory without putting your Reader to Sleep.  She notes, “When opening a novel, your reader cares more about what’s going on right now than what happened in the past.”

The key is to tell backstory in dribbles.  This is less disruptive to the reader and allows them to remain engaged with the story’s present.  Here are a few ways to tell backstory in an unobtrusive manner:

 Backstory through dialogue.

Backstory can be filtered into the conversation your characters are having with one another.  In the midst of laughter, one character tells the other, a passer-by looks just like his son before he got disfigured in a car accident.  Now this divulges how the son’s face became damaged

 Backstory through expression.

Your character’s mother often squint her face in laughter due to a stroke.  This not only allows you to give a description of the mother’s present mannerisms, you’re also able to give subtle hints as to how she was before the mishap.

 Backstory through quirks.

Your protagonist is an upright citizen and pillar in the community.  However, his shady dealings as a youngster, still has him looking over his shoulder whenever he hears police sirens going by.   (eHow video: “How to write a Backstory,”

Backstory through events.

If there is a reoccurring event in your story, use backstory to show its importance.  Think of the movies, “Halloween,” and, “I know what you did Last Summer.” (“Back Story,” by Robert B. Parker.  Available at in hardcopy, paper, and CD.)

 Backstory through props.

If a photograph has significant meaning in your story, by all means, use it as a vehicle to some of your backstory.  Did a character take a picture that places him at a specific time?  Is there someone in the background of the photo that gives clarity to solving a mystery?

Certain accomplished writers use an entire chapter to write backstory.  This method is not recommended for fledgling writers; however, the good news is, you will find your niche.  What works wonders for one writer may feel inept for another.  Remember to tell backstory on a need-to-know basis.  Don’t give too much too soon.  Readers love a good suspense when it involves unfolding revelations of characters.

 How do you write back story?

ASSIGNMENT: Your next writing project, map out how you will release small amounts of backstory.