School of Nonfiction with Shulem Deen

The “Memoir Series” is the first full-scale project at School of Nonfiction, an exploration of everything to know in order to create compelling works of memoir. While the guidance in this series is generally geared towards book projects, most of it also applies to personal narrative essays.
The following is the conclusively inconclusive list of essays in this series. This list might change as we go, so check back every now and again. This list is also nice and orderly. The essays themselves, however, will be written as they come, in no particular order.

Active links are for items already published. Unlinked items are forthcoming. (Click here for a list of published essays only.)

PART I: APPROACHING THE FORM

What Exactly Do You Mean By Memoir Anyway?    

Three Kinds of “Unusual” to Make Your Reader Care    *NEW*

Understanding Life From Hindsight

Seeing the Stories in the Everyday

Why Memoir Isn’t A Substitute For Therapy

Why Memoir Is a Little Bit Like Therapy

Can Writing Be Taught — Or Must it Always Come Naturally?

Top Ten Rules for Memoir

PART II: THE BIG PICTURE

Finding the Narrative Needle in Your Life’s Haystack

Making Stories Out of Everyday Life

Shaping The Narrative: What Aristotle Got Right About Storytelling

But What’s the Story About? Why “Theme” is Important to Story

Why Pivotal Moments Are Key to Narrative Progression

PART III: CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES

It’s Always About You — Even When It’s About Others

But Are You Sure Your Memory Is Reliable?

Why Honesty is Key to Gaining Your Reader’s Trust

Why Vulnerability is Key to Gaining Reader Intimacy

Don’t Be the Hero of Your Story

Seeing the Humanity in Your Villain

Why Telling the Truth Matters (And Not Only Because It’s the Right Thing.)

Religious and Ideological Transformations: Special Storytelling Challenges

PART IV: GETTING DOWN

How to Think Cinematically — and Why You Should Do So 

Slowing Down and Speeding Up: Scene, Summary, and Exposition

Scene: Lights, Camera, Action!

Summary: The B-Roll

Exposition: Facts the Reader Just Needs to Know

Voice and Tone

The Art of the Sentence

Effective dialogue

Writing Like a Sculptor: Hacking Away to Find the Perfect Form

Present vs. Past Tense

PART V: DEVICES

In medias res

The Unreliable Narrator

Contrasting Mood and Tone

The Epistolary Form

Tying the End to the Beginning

Multiple Narrative Threads

Transitions

Mix and Match: Memoir / Reporting / Scholarship / Family History

Easter Eggs: Motifs / Symbols / Allusions

PART VI: TIPS AND BEST PRACTICES

10 Helpful Writing Exercises

10 Workshopping Tips

Your Characters in Real Life

APPENDIX: READING LIST



Hey there, Shulem here. Thanks for reading! Content on this site will always be free and open to all. Your support would mean the world to me, though, and it would help me keep writing. Consider becoming a patron today for as little as $1. You will have my sincerest gratitude. –S