‘I am 54 years old. Large important parts of my life receive virtually no attention in my memoir — a sentence for a traumatic love affair, a page for four happy years in college. Memoirs are selections from your life story, shaped by theme, driven by a few burning questions. So the question the reader brings is: why these bits of your life?’
Leaving Rollingstone, Kevin Fenton
If you are following the rules here you are moving forward by filling in your chapters (NF) or you are working through your scene list (M). Let’s now look at how you can vary your writing style by including different kinds of elements or scenes.
Here are a few ways you may want to mix up your writing and your story. These are chapters or scenes you may need in your book
You need chapters or scenes that ‘set the scene’
These are overview scenes. You may want a scene that covers an entire lifetime. You may want to write this in the style of a narrator or journalist.
Ø What is Taoism?
Ø Why sales is the master game
Ø Why health matters
Ø Carbs are your enemy – here's why
Ø What is mindfulness about?
Ø The rock scene in London in the 80s.
You need chapters or scenes that are technical
All books need a deep dive into the nitty-gritty. If you are covering a specialised topic you may need to really research and unpack this for your reader. This may also be your personal expertise that you need to convey with authority to the reader. In a memoir you may want to play some of these out as conversations.
Ø How Motor Neuron Disease affects the nerves (could this be a doctor explaining it to you?)
Ø How the body processes carbs
Ø How the Wall Street crash unfolded
Ø The ins and outs of property law
You need chapters or scenes compress time
Some chapters require that you sometimes sum up years, even decades of your life or experience, into a single sentence, page or chapter.
Which times in your life do you need to do this?
How can you skip longer sections?
How can you move from action to action?
You need chapters or scenes that are exciting and speed things up
Some scenes require pace and excitement. Short words. Short sentences. Tight dialogue. This can express anger. Excitement. Fear. Urgency. Clipped tone. One-liners. Fast pace.
Can you find a sense of urgency? Can you make it shorter, tighter, more exciting, closer?
You need chapters or scenes that slow down the time
Your book absolutely must have some key BIG moments that need to play out ever so slowly over a full scene and evoke every sense. Often these big moments play out over one to two chapters even. As a writer you need to find out these bigger moments in your story draw things out. Describe every sensory detail. Hold the reader in THAT moment of time. Make them feel it all.
You need chapters or scenes in the present tense
Using present tense can add a different tone to your writing. Please note the entire book cannot be in present tense as this is jarring to the reader. Stick to using it for impact in select scenes where it is very real and immediate.
Here’s an example:
She looks at me. I look at her. We know it is real. We are about to get mugged.
I run to the door. It’s closed. I open it quickly and race outside, heart jacking in my chest like a drum.