Master Story Teller, Robert McKee

I’m always looking for writing information on the web and today I discovered something that is great. I’ve been getting  regular e-mails from Robert McKee’s Storylogue for quite some time, wishing I could afford the large fee to attend one of his three-day sessions on writing screenplays. It’s not that I want to write a screenplay, I just want to see if I can steal any of his devices to improve my memoir writing skills. I never thought to look on You Tube. Here’s the link to a lesson on setting from the master story teller, Robert McKee. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-SfvGUmr_A Like a bag of potato chips, I’m sure I won’t be happy with just one. Over the next few days, I’ll be watching as many of these short...

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I’m All About Compression

During the last residency of my MFA program, we spent three hours each morning going over our manuscripts. When asked what I would do to expand a fellow-student’s story, I had to pass.  “I’m all about compression,” I said. I tend to write with as few words as possible and often recommend others do the same. Sometimes, the simple act of compression improves the writing.  I found a great article on-line from Writer’s Relief, Inc. on how to shorten your writing. Here’s the link: http://www.writersrelief.com/blog/2009/03/why-length-matters-when-submitting-your-stories-and-poems-for-publication/ Give it a try. Shorter pieces are easier to get published. Shorter pieces keep the reader’s interest. Do you have one written piece...

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Eating an Elephant

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Does the idea of beginning a writing project overwhelm you? Are you still procrastinating? Can you write a word? A sentence? A paragraph?  If you can’t see yourself writing the entire story, just get a sentence or two down on the page. Build from that. Maybe you can’t quite imagine how the story will hang together, but you could write that one little scene. What’s the dialogue? How did your mother’s face look when you gave her the bad news that September morning? What was the light in the room during the conversation? What noises were in the background? What smells? As writers, sometimes we don’t know where to begin or how to get started. We flounder and fail. Try again and again and...

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Be Brave! Be Daring!

I am often asked about how to deal with telling family secrets. What should a writer do when a memoir reveals more information than some relatives might feel comfortable sharing? If you are just beginning to write your story, put that thought on the back burner. Right now, just concentrate on writing the best memoir possible. Learn the craft. Develop your setting. Re-create the characters from your life on paper. Tell a great story. When the time comes to put your story out into the world, you may have a different attitude. Will your sixty-year-old sister really care that you have made her look like a spoiled brat when she was thirteen? Decades later, are we even the same people we were back then? You must be brave! Daring! Write your story. Put it all down on...

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A Lesson on Imagery

Our brains think in images. If I ask you to imagine a woman, your brain does not spell “woman” in giant letters inside your head. Instead it attempts to think of an actual image of a woman. Your brain races around in confusion. Is this woman tall, short, young, or pretty?  If I give you no instruction as to what that woman looks like, you’re frustrated.  But if I add this simple statement— think of Sophia Loren, but with long blond hair— you get it.  An image pops in your head. Your brain calms.  There’s a lesson to be learned for the writer in this explanation of imagery. As readers, we are proficient in creating movies  in our heads from the words we see on the page.  If we are reading along and can’t follow the images,...

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