What I Learned from Screenwriters about Structuring a Memoir

Betty Hafner

October 6, 2016

4 PM PDT  5 PM MDT  6 PM CDT  7 PM EDT

 

not-exactly-loveYou may have heard the question, “What’s the better training for writers—an MFA or New York?”  Well, neither for me. When I started writing in earnest, I chose to stay put and learn everything I could from books, workshops, writers’ conferences, webinars and wherever Google sent me. This is all to say I’ve had no formal training in writing.

So after two years of writing about my marriage in the ’70s, I was stuck. I had simply a collection of chapters full of drama, because those were the situations I was able to remember most clearly. It didn’t feel like it was becoming a book though. That’s when the screenwriters came in, not literally, of course. I just dug into materials where various film consultants and writers discussed how to shape a story into one that would really mean something to an audience or readers. It was a significant turning point for me, and I’d like to share some of those lessons with you.

Among other things, we’ll discuss:

  • Pulling together a collection of related personal essays into a memoir.
  • Using the classic three-act dramatic structure to help shape your memoir.
  • Seeing the story you’re telling about your life as a journey.
  • The importance of scenes in memoirs.
  • What makes the setup in your story so important.

 

Biography

betty-hafnerBetty Hafner lives outside Washington, DC and has written a popular monthly book review column for twelve years in The Town Courier newspapers in Montgomery County, MD. With a M. S. in counseling she was a teacher and counselor in high schools and colleges for twenty-five years. She continues to lead workshops, give talks and facilitate groups. She wrote two practical career-change books that stemmed from her workshops―Where Do I Go From Here? (Lippincott) and The Nurse’s Guide to Starting a Small Business (Pilot Books). Always ready to converse, she also loves telling stories through her drawings and photographs.

 

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