Writing the Self and Others in Memoir – Constructing Characters Beyond a Good Guy/Bad Guy Binary

As in fiction, the most compelling characters in memoir are those who feel alive, nuanced and utterly unlike anyone but themselves. Specificity and close observation breathe life into our creations on the page. Developing unforgettable characters, including a narrative “self,” is tricky business. As Vivian Gornick writes, “For the drama to deepen, we must see the loneliness of the monster and the cunning of the innocent.” This active workshop will focus on how to dilate point of view in order to avoid the dual trap of valorising the self or villainizing the other. How can we make everyone on the page as fully human as possible? A short lecture will look at successful examples of complex narrators and humanized antagonists within memoir. We will also experiment through writing prompts with ways to deepen and complicate our original vision of characters (including the narrator) to make them believably flawed, plausibly autonomous and undeniably themselves. Suggested reading in advance: George Hodgman’s Bettyville; Maya Angelou’s Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas

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