Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tell Me a Story: The Voice of Narrators in Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


When writing gurus talk about voice in a story, they are referring to the narrator’s voice, the protagonist’s voice, the person telling the story. And many times this has a lot to do with the author voice as well. We tend to infuse our narrators with wit, poignancy, or anything needed to tell our stories, whether fiction or memoir.  
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com/


There is so much to know about the different narrators in story; omniscient, limited, first person, etc. For this post, I’d like to concentrate on the voice of the narrator in memoir.

There are two kinds of narrators in memoir and the author needs to decide where she is standing when she is telling her story. The importance in memoir is “what the narrator knows and when she knows it.”

According to Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator, there are two narrators in memoir:
the writer, the person who lived the experience
and
the writer, the person who is telling the experience.

In story, it is who knows what, and when they know it. In memoir, there is the narrator at the beginning of the story arc and narrator at end of the story arc. In most stories, the character needs to grow and change no place more so than in memoir.

In my case, the narrator at the end of the story arc is the Victoria after her experience of attending college and graduating. What did she get out of it? Was it worth taking time away from the family to obtain that diploma?

But to tell this college story, I needed to choose:
Was I going to tell the memoir story as a narrator standing in the present time looking back on my college experience? Was I going to tell my college story as a narrator with the experience of having gone through college?
Or
Was I going to tell the story as an unknowing narrator actually going through the college experience for the first time?

Nash explains that a narrator in memoir who knows what she knows presently, after her experience, looking back is a more powerful narrator for the story.

So as memoir writers, we have to know:  who in the story knows what, and when they know it. In memoir you have:

The Narrator – unknowing before the experience or knowing after the experience
The Character in the memoir story
AND
The real Person who lived the memoir story.

Three different selves the memoir writer has to master. This is the difficult part of memoir story. If you don’t know the roles those three different selves are playing, you’ll struggle. And believe me; I struggled tremendously with this understanding. I still do.

As a writer of fiction, you have:
The narrator and
The character
NOT the person who lived the tale. This doesn’t come into play in fiction. But you still need to decide who in your story knows what information and when do they know it?

This is not an easy concept to understand. I hope I’m making sense here for you. It's ONE narrator then in my college memoir. I needed to choose how to tell the story; whether I was looking at the experience at the time of attending college as an unknowing narrator
or
if I was telling the story in the present time, after attending college with all the knowledge and insight gained since, looking back at my experiences.

            I chose to tell my college story as a knowing narrator after my college experience looking back on my experiences. I still have my character Victoria going through the experiences. I still have the real person Victoria who actually lived the college experiences; how she felt, what she did, how she coped. But my narrator is an experienced narrator who can infuse the manuscript [story] with knowledge gained from college and life experiences.

I’d like to thank Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator for helping me to understand the different narrators and character selves in memoir.

Please ask any questions about my college memoir and share any insight you may have in the comments section of Adventures in Writing about the voice of the narrator in your story. Thanks so much!

And thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

25 comments:

  1. I never thought about it but there are two views you could take. I think most I've read are indeed the narrator telling the story after it's happened.

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    1. I believe that is more common too, Alex. Thank you so much for sharing your advice here at Adventures in Writing. I truly appreciate it. Have an enjoyable weekend!

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  2. I didn't think about it either, but there are many choices you have to make in how you tell your story in a memoir. It's interesting to think about in a genre I have considered before.

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    1. There are many, many choices to make when telling any story, Natalie. And memoir is told like a story, not merely a list of what happened in your life. This is what makes writing stories so difficult.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for your note. Enjoy your weekend!

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  3. This is really eye-opening for me. Thanks. I'm bookmarking and sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much, Raimey! I truly appreciate your sharing my blog post. I'm glad it is helpful. Thanks for all you do to assist your fellow writer.

      And thanks for leaving a comment here at Adventures in Writing. It's greatly appreciated. Enjoy your weekend!

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  4. I didn’t think about the different selves in my memoir either, but I knew from the start that I wanted to write in the present tense in order to draw my readers in and have them go along, on the adventures, with me. The story unfolds in front of their eyes as much as in front of my eyes. Since I’m impulsive, I wanted the reader to experience what that’s like. So, I guess I unconsciously chose to have my character go through the scenes unknowingly and without hindsight. Interesting topic, Victoria.

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    1. Great idea, Liesbet! I think impulsivity will amp up your adventures on the high seas for sure. At first, I was going to be an "unknowing" narrator. But in my case, a knowing narrator works better.

      Thank you so much for your kind words here at Adventures in Writing. I certainly appreciate them. Enjoy your weekend!

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  5. Good post Victoria - and relevant to all writers. In my last book my mc aged from nine to sixty-one, so I had to think hard about her 'voice' at different ages to show the change in her self awareness.

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    1. True, Tony! What a huge age bracket in which to know your main character. You write historical fiction. I believe that may be a common time span in which to present a historical story. Writing in a small age range is difficult enough to know your character. I can’t imagine writing from such a wide age range. The character arc must be substantial.

      Thank you so much for your kind words here at Adventures in Writing. I certainly appreciate them. Enjoy your weekend!

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  6. I'm still trying to think more deeply about voice. Your explanation is very helpful. Thanks. Presently, I'm thinking of changing my protagonist's POV to present tense. It's first person past right now. You gave me more to think about. Again, thanks.

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    1. My pleasure, Dawn. There is so much to consider when writing stories. And voice is very difficult, I think, to get right. I've never written a story in present tense, first person. Let me know how it goes.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for your note. Enjoy your weekend!

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  7. This is such a valuable post, Victoria. Thank you. I have several friends who are hoping or in the process of writing their memoirs. I'm passing this link along to them because its contents is invaluable. Have a great day.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Joylene. Writers helping writers. That's what Author Toolbox is about. Thank you for sharing my post with your writer friends. I hope they find it helpful as well.

      I truly appreciate your comment here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your weekend!

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  8. You did make perfect sense, however, first-person fiction could also use this approach. Or at least I think they could. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. I think voice and knowing and unknowing protagonists work with either fiction or memoir, Anna.

      Thank you so much for your kind words here at Adventures in Writing. I certainly appreciate them. Enjoy your weekend!

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  9. I agree with Anna. I write mostly first person fiction and the most important consideration is figuring out whether the story is in the past or whether it's happening right now.

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    1. This is true, Erika. So many decisions to story writing. The good thing is we can start our stories with one method, and if it's not working out, we can go back to the beginning and start with a different method, using first person, past tense or third person, present.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for your note. Enjoy your weekend!

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  10. Hi Victoria - I don't want to write memoir per se - but equally I enjoy trying to work out the whys and wherefores of my ancestral history from my parents backwards, as I have no children. I enjoy and have found my voice - through the blog as more of a 3rd person looking back ... so my thoughts tend to be of a historical approach in I suspect all things I write now!

    But it's the motivation of why you're writing that's important too - and who for etc ... interesting thoughts - PS I checked out the Wiki page re motivation in genealogy. In finding out more about my ancestors I start to uncover history ... both interesting and informative - which on occasions gets into the blog. Being younger I can see where you're coming from and with the family/children's interest that makes a difference ... as you can bring in understanding of how you cope and the family copes. You're writing true memoir. Take care and stay safe - Hilary

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    1. Absolutely, Hilary. Motivation is key in anyone's story. Audience is also important to any story. Who are we speaking to or for?

      Your blog is truly fascinating, Hilary. I always learn so much. The interesting thing about discovering how our ancestors thought is to remember the times they grew up in. Society was different then. Things that aren't acceptable today may have been acceptable back then.

      It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much for your note. Enjoy your weekend!

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  11. Enjoyed this. Learn something. Bookmarking.

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    1. Thank you so much, Juneta! I truly appreciate your kind note here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your week and be safe!

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  12. I could see how this would be tricky, balancing these different versions of yourself, so to speak. And you want to make sure you're still building suspense for the reader and not spoiling the ending.

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  13. Hello and welcome to Adventures in Writing! I'm so glad you stopped by. This is absolutely tricky, James! As in any story, true or not, suspense must build to engage the reader. I'm the sort who doesn't want to spoil the ending.

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight here at Adventures in Writing. Enjoy your week!

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  14. Shut up and kiss me. Hey, i am looking for an online sexual partner ;) Click on my boobs if you are interested (. )( .)

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