The Most Important Component of a Memoir

While attending my MFA program in Boston, I loved listening to one of my fellow students talk. Kerry had attitude, spunk, and a distinct voice which I could easily identify. The first week of school we workshopped one of her memoir pieces.  She had written a story about growing up in her large family.  Her setting was perfect. The story was interesting. While the class discussed her work-in-progress, I wanted to speak up but was intimidated by the intelligence in the room. I kept waiting for someone else to say what I was thinking. After the class had ended, with no one having spoken my thoughts, I walked up to Kerry in the crowded hallway and said, “I love listening to you talk. Your personality really shines through.”

She thanked me for the compliment and then I said the words I had been dying to say, “But where is that voice when you write?”

Kerry had one of those Oprah “aha” moments. In later workshops we heard the Jamaican influence in her dialogue. That sassy attitude came out on the page in force. And on the day of graduation, when Kerry gave her fifteen minute reading, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Kerry found her voice. Her voice will be the difference between a book that sits in the drawer without a reader and a best-selling memoir.

What about your writing voice? Does it sound like you or does it sound the way you think it should?  Be real when you write. Be authentic. Your voice will come through loud and clear. Voice will get you noticed by editors and publishers. Voice will make the difference between a best-seller and a dud.

 

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