Writing Questions and Some Answers

This writing stuff is difficult.  I think I said this before.  Writing Alchemy (book review below) has helped by giving me a method for a more productive revision/rewrite.  I found this method to be far more in-depth than the A.R.R.R. process discussed below.

Say you have written a wonderful couple of paragraphs that describe a specific scene.  You have added great descriptions in an effort to ‘show rather than tell’.  But have you added anything that would show how you, or your character, felt in this scene.  You might have included sight and sound but did you include smell, tough or taste?  Did you talk with anyone in the scene?   Could you use that conversation to move the story along or to better show your feelings at the time?

Elements:  Sensation and Perception; Emotion and Effect; Dialogue

This stuff is fascinating.  It is also very hard to do when you are creating a memoir of events that occurred in 1967-1969.  No, I don’t remember the exact conversation, but the fact that I remember the jest of the conversation tells me that it was important at the time.  I remember why the conversation was important.  So, if it helps to tell my story or to show my reader who I was and how I felt, than it is probably a conversation that should be included.  Or at least, it is worth trying to recreate it.

In my memoir, I am trying to include a side of food.   There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason is because food or lack thereof is very important to a Peace Corps volunteer.  Also because I truly underwent a food revolution during this time span.  Of course writing about food is just a perfect place to include the senses.  So each time I speak of food, I need to remember sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.  Not to mention how I felt about that food at that time.

Building characters is a huge part of writing.  The problem here is that although I felt as one with all the other volunteers, I didn’t really, I mean really, know any of them.  Beyond the commonality of time and place all I really knew was what was printed in the training book.  Of course we were all young and probably most of us were idealistic.  In some ways there was not a vast amount of experience or knowledge to be shared.  I think it was really more about our shared experiences as Peace Corps volunteers rather than each of us as individuals.  On the other hand as a Peace Corps Volunteer Secretary my job, and my life during that time, centered on providing assistance to other Peace Corps Volunteers.  So how do I show these volunteers to my readers?  Through my experiences with them via our brief encounter over this period.  This feels shallow and weak to me.  Somehow I must convey to the reader our intense shared bond, our special camaraderie, our sharing of the bad times and the fun times.  I’m still working on this one.

Elements:  People and Characters; Time and Place

The method is to deconstruct the various parts, examine and rewrite or write new stuff, then using the best parts of all you have created.  Writing Alchemy talks about writing ‘fast and deep’ and their recommendations are to write your book from scratch using this method.  Since I already had my first draft I am deconstructing as a rewrite.  Essentially I’m writing it again but better.  Let’s hope!

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About Donna Strobridge Ianni

RPCV Philippines '67-'69
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