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, September 17, 2019

Universal Themes in Memoir or Fiction #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

            Universal themes in story can start out as statements. Love conquers all. Order leads to harmony. Heroes are always right. Loyalty to family is absolute. Universal themes are understood in any culture. They are assumed to be straightforward. Correct. Concrete. But in the writer’s hands, themes become human. They become specific. In other words, writers deepen these general themes and give them power by creating compelling stories.

            By building stories around themes, writers personify them. Think of any romance where “love conquers all,” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, many wonderful present day romance stories, and the ever-present Chicken Soup for the Soul books. What they all contain is the human side of the theme. The writer shows through actions and characters how this theme holds up in the real life of a story.

            But showing the theme to be true or false is only the surface of the story. The difficult job for the writer in creating a memorable story is to add tension. Tension drives the story. Conflict, both internal and external, shows the deeper meaning of theme. Conflict should be specific to one character or a small group of characters in the form of a belief. If we think about the theme of family loyalty, we can see how easily it can become misguided; abused spouses staying with their abuser for family reasons; children believing it is their fault they are being abused. Of course the theme of loyalty can be political or faith-based too.  

            The struggles you show in the story branch off your main theme. They show the inner conflict and why the character behaves as he or she does. Story events show the literal obstacles the character faces in life that are hampered by that internal, often misguided belief of the theme.   

            If I use my college memoir as an example with a main theme of believing in oneself, through backstory, the reader learns that Victoria had struggled through elementary school and finally makes the honor roll [good grades] by eighth grade. But when she comes to her father, a man who has always shown her love, to have him sign off on her choice of college prep courses for high school, he wouldn’t do it. Instead, he told her college wouldn’t work for her. She wasn’t smart enough.

It comes to the power of words from someone you trust and love. Because her father didn’t believe she could survive college, Victoria becomes locked in a vicious cycle of not believing in herself, in what she could accomplish. What Victoria comes to realize in this memoir story is that the power to believe in oneself comes from within. This power to believe in oneself, to obtain it and keep it, is a constant struggle for many people of all cultures.

            Well, what do you think? Please feel free to offer any insight or ask any questions regarding the universal theme of believing in oneself for my college memoir. It would be truly appreciated. 

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Insecure Writers Want to Know: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

If I could chose any place to sit and write my next story or the revision of my memoir, it would need to be somewhere my family can’t find me. I also need to be in a place where I can’t look out the window. Therefore, I usually hide out among the stacks in the local library. If I sat by the windows looking out on the lake, I’d be thinking about walking around that lake and not focused on my writing. If I ever went to some beautiful vacation spot by the beach or in the mountains to write, I would get nowhere. I’d be too excited to investigate my surroundings.

I’ve told you before about my desire to be outdoors, traipsing about my surroundings thinking. I love winter, spring, summer AND fall, no matter what the weather. I can splash through the puddles with the best of them! So I can’t have the beauty of nature calling to me when I’m trying to write. Social media can be distracting, but my favorite distraction is freeing my eyes and mind from the computer screen. And I do it best by going outside.

Presently, I’ve been spending much time outside with my family. I’ve come to the end of a draft of my memoir about attending college as a mother of five. It’s not the first draft; it’s much stronger than that one. But it surely will not be the last draft. I’ve written 170 pages and have roughly 55,000 words. Is it too short? Should I add in other threads?

I’m never one to pad my prose. The idea with longer manuscripts, whether they are fiction or nonfiction, is to add another thread to investigate or perhaps other scenes that address and show character relationships or add to the plotline. My college memoir’s focus is on education, college, and family. The points I hope it makes are:

Never give up on a dream. It’s never too late to start.
Fear and doubt are a part of life.
Perseverance matters in life. Effort counts toward success.
If you don’t try, you’ll be left with regret. 

The point of the book is to find the permission within yourself to try and achieve goals that may at first appear frightening or unattainable.

But how does someone find permission within herself to attempt a dream she was told not to try? In my case, it was through the love of a mother and child. A love that wasn’t afraid of struggle, but rather allowed for opportunity.

*Please offer any comments on the length of my college memoir or its focus or points. Your comments truly help me to move forward in revision.*

So, where do you like to hide--I mean write--if you could go anywhere?

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This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.