There are several ways to weave together various elements of your narrative, whether fiction or non-fiction. Begin by asking yourself the following two questions (it may help to write down the answers).
Question #1. What is the main story you want to tell? In other words, what is the most important element of your story, what drives you to want to write this particular book? Once you have answered this, ask yourself:
Question #2. Is there a secondary narrative, or a subplot that you would like to include. This might be a love story, a parenting or a childhood story that relates to the main narrative. Let’s say, for instance, your mom was a doctor or health worker in the hospital where you are visiting a family member; you could contrast your current story with memories of a young child in the same setting. Alternatively, you may simply pause in the narrative periodically to reflect on what you went through, or outline strategies that helped you during this time.
When I was writing my memoir, I used colored markers to help identify various elements of my story. You can do it on the manuscript itself, but I’ll also use colors here to help illustrate these elements and how you might weave them together
a) main narrative
b) subplot or secondary narrative
c) takeaways, if you have any
Once you have established the various components, you have many ways to construct your narrative. Here are three:
- Alternate chapters of your main narrative with a subplot or writing (or other) takeaways.
- Weave bits of your subplot into your main narrative by making connections or transitions: For instance “the brilliant coral of the setting sun brought to mind the color of [my best friend’s] dress when I first met her.” Notice the transition from main narrative to subplot which in this case is the genesis of a friendship that relates to the primary narrative.
- Write your main narrative like a novel in the sense of suspense, pacing, and dialog. I’m not suggesting you invent anything, just that you make the writing highly readable. If you want, you can have a separate page at the end of each chapter highlighting specific strategies you used rather (for examples writing wisdom) and than incorporating them into the main narrative. This is a fairly straight-forward method, and may serve you well. Good luck! I wish I had discovered this method before I spent twenty-two years writing my memoir!
Note: A version of this post was first published on womensmemoirs.com