Roundtable: 4 PM PST   5 PM MST   6 PM CST   7 PM EST

suzanne sherman

We’re so pleased to have Suzanne Sherman talk with us during this Free Roundtable discussion about developing your characters in a memoir. We know that they’re “real people” yet we have to bring them alive so others can know them too.

In fiction, writers give focused attention to creating characters that carry the plot forward. Character motivation is a continuing consideration as they reveal the central and secondary characters through the book or short story. In screenwriting, the same is true.

In memoir, our job is different. We aren’t creating characters and deciding their relevant motivations, we’re taking what’s here and turning it into story. We’re writing about central and secondary characters and we’re drawing them in 3-D, so readers get to know them.

Characters — the people in our life stories — are at the heart of it all. 

Too often in memoir, writers make the assumptions that readers know the characters in their lives simply because they know them so well. They supply a physical overview at their introduction — build, hair color, eye color (e.g., she’s a petite redhead with green eyes) — and leave the characters lying flat on the page. A written photograph is as one-dimensional as a picture in a photo album. Who is this person you know? What is their style? What habits or mannerisms describe them?

Suzanne will share some great tips on what it takes to create a character in 3-D and bring them to life on the page.

• You’ll learn about showing character through action, dialog, style, and mannerisms — details that “characterize” and reveal a person.

• Readers need more than the incidents of our lives. You’ll get fresh ideas about the details that matter most and find out when to best include them. You’ll learn creative methods for character studies that supply you with all the details you need to create a character in 3-D.

• You’ll consider yourself as a character, something that’s both obvious and easy to overlook as a memoir writer. We can’t fairly assume readers know us or “see” us simply because we’re the narrator describing our experience.

• Reading as a writer is a vital way to improve your skills, and we’ll look at a few stellar examples of character by some of the best writers in print.

Suzanne Sherman (www.suzannesherman.com), author, editor, teacher and coach, has taught memoir in the San Francisco Bay Area and online since 1996. She’s been an editor and consultant for publishers and independent clients for 30 years. Her upcoming book, “100 Years in the Life of an American Girl: True Stories 1910 – 2010” (Spring 2013) will feature stories of girlhood from around the country in every decade of the last hundred years. Visit www.facebook.com/100yearsinthelife