We will tell the next generation the praise-worthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done … so the next generation would know … even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commands (Psalm 78:4b, 6-7 NIV).
Your story is important. It can make a difference in someone’s life—maybe for eternity—however “No story has a divine right to be read” (Peter P. Jacobi). In other words, you can’t force people to read your stories so you must write stories worth reading.
How? Let’s start with leads and details.
Most writers find it easier to create a lead after they’ve written the first draft. If you wrote two or three stories last week, this week you can craft a lead for each. The lead is the first thing your reader reads. It “hooks” him, catches his attention, causes curiosity, and motivates him to read.
Since this is a min-course, (Memoir Writing Lite), here are only a few brief examples:
- Anecdote: a short story to illustrate or personalize the point of your piece.
- Action: a vivid word-picture of the action.
- Quote: a quote, song, or proverb that illustrates the point of your story.
- Scene-setting: a description of your setting that makes your reader feel he’s there; builds up expectancy, suspense.
- Startling assertion: a shocking statement, meant to surprise.
- Question: “Have you ever noticed that.…?” Entice the reader to think how he would answer the question.
- A “you” message: use “you” so your reader will identify with the person(s) in your story.
- News article: one or two sentences that answer the Five W’s – who, what, where, when, why.
- The flashback: the most riveting part of the action starts the story, then the writer flashes back to the beginning of the experience; at that point, use the word “had” because it moves readers to the beginning.
Feel free to use variations on the above list. Catch your reader’s attention and motivate him to read your story.
Details, blessed details
Since your lead promises readers a great story, you must follow through—you must write a story worth reading all the way to the end. Details make your stories’ settings and characters come alive. Invite readers to see each scene or person as if they are living it with you. Enable readers to hear, feel, smell, taste, and see what you experienced. (Photos, journals, and old letters will help you recall details.) You don’t need to include every detail, but select details that capture the essence of that place and the person at the time of your story.
This week’s assignment:
- Review last week’s lesson, keeping in mind the elements of memoir and your purpose in writing.
- Craft leads for each of your stories.
- Write details into your stories so readers can hear, feel, smell, taste, and to see what you experienced.
- Review Carol Brinneman’s post about strong writing. All of Carol’s posts are excellent, as are Cindy’s. I also recommend Cecil Murphey’s blog, Writer to Writer.
- Write stories that inspire readers to conclude, “What an awesome God!”
- Have fun!
Remember: You’ll revise your stories each week so don’t worry about perfecting them yet. Re-writing is not punishment! Every good writer revises a number of times. Revision is an art: polish your stories and make them shine.