Karr counsels write them anyway, even if you have to put them away for a while, because it’s the writing process that untangles the truth, revealing the inner conflict that propels any story. As actors in our own lives, we are seldom aware of an event’s meaning or impact at the time it occurs. Karr points out that the writer is often the last to know what his or her story is all about. It may be a critique group member, a beta reader, an agent or an editor who tells the writer what themes rear their head in almost every episode. Until the writer is aware of the key conflict, they have no bait to hook a reader.
Amidst the cultural discussion on whether or not a memoirist has the right to fudge the facts, Karr remains a champion of the unflinching truth. This, she emphasizes is our contract with the reader.
But, she cautions the writer, be ready for reversals. As we gain broader vision, what we thought was true about a relationship, a character, may not be. So above all, love the people you’re writing about. “If you want revenge,” Karr quips, “hire a lawyer.”
Mary also advises sending copies of your manuscripts to friends and family for review, asking is this how you remember it? Why not? No two people experience or record an occurrence the exact same way. But good writing harmonizes different perspectives to provide a richer picture.
So fellow writers out there, I highly recommend Mary Karr’s new book, as an invaluable resource and encouragement. There’s more, so much more, and everything she shared rang true to my own writing experience.
And readers of my blog, as I pray and sift the significance of those scenes that have me quagmired at the moment, I would love to hear what you think all my breadcrumbs have been about so far. Thanks for any comments.