Think of memoir’s first chapter as a suitcase

Monica Lee

One way to judge a good memoir is by its first chapter.

At a memoir writing workshop I attended before writing “The Percussionist’s Wife,” author Paulette Bates Alden (“Crossing the Moon”) maintained the first chapter was a reflection of all that was to follow. “The first chapter is like a suitcase,” she said. “Pack some things there that you can unpack later.”

Often, a story begins at a crucial decision point (the suitcase), and then flashes back to tell the story leading up to this moment (the unpacking). In the “Percussionist’s Wife,” I did this by describing my encounter with a Reiki master who accurately summed up my messy marriage; 95% of the rest of the book unpacks this mess.

Donna Tartt uses this effective approach to narrative in “The Goldfinch,” which I reviewed recently on my Minnesota Transplant blog. It’s not a memoir, but this work of fiction reads…

View original post 120 more words

to fail or not to fail, what is your response

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s