Thanks to The Review Review (a review of literary reviews), I discovered Michael Steinberg’s blog and recent article, Finding the Inner Story in Literary Nonfiction. Nonfiction writers and memoirists, are mostly advised to stick to the facts of what happened and to, “Show, don’t tell.” While it’s important to engage our readers by writing strong scenes anchored in concrete details, it’s equally important to let readers into what was (and is) going on in the heart and mind of the narrator.
Steinberg’s post reminds us that we don’t read life stories to find out what happened as much as to find out how what happened changed the narrator. We want to relate our experiences, thoughts, and feelings with the narrator’s, and we can only do that if the narrator reveals what those are.
Steinberg advises writers:
“… to think about personal essays and memoir as having two stories. The story of the experience itself, including the facts and remembered sequence of events. But most importantly, the story of their thinking. Which is; what do those facts and events mean? What I’m really asking is: How do you, the writer, interpret the story of your own experience?”
A writer’s journal is a great place to explore and understand more fully the meanings of our experiences. Journal writing techniques such as questions and sentence-starting prompts, clustering, stream-of-consciousness, extended lists, and freewriting can help you delve more deeply into the remembered experience, as well as develop your reflective narrator’s point of view.
Join the discussion by leaving a comment. What do you think of Steinberg’s post and how would including more of the narrator’s interiority benefit your story?
Image Credit: h.koppdelaney