Start a scene as late in the action as you can and get out right after the change.—Adair Lara
Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay by Adair Lara. 247 pages, Ten Speed Press.
Lara on collage:
The risk with collage is that while it looks temptingly simple—much as an abstract expressionist painting might to a student painter—it is not. An intuitive calibration of effects must supply the sense of unity that would otherwise be supplied by story. You must repeat images, colors, patters—something for the reader to recognize and track. And the less headlong narrative there is, the more engaging the voice must be, the more arresting the images.
Lara on narration vs. scene:
You’ll notice that I often refer to the “events” in your book when talking about the arc. These events can be dealt with on the page in one of two ways: in narration, or in scene. Some memoirs, such as Angela’s Ashes, are almost all scene; others, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, are almost all narration. More and more, however, modern memoirs use scenes to make a book lively and readable.
Lara on scene:
So your first step is to identify which events are important enough to go into a scene. In the last chapter, we saw that each emotion that’s acted on to move the story forward is a beat. Beats are changes, thus they are dramatized: All important changes must be dramatized in scene. If we see you doing something you would not have done before, we want to be there with you when that change occurs. If something happens one night to make you realize that you are not the freak you took yourself to be, show it. If you feed your once-scary father yogurt with a spoon in the hospital, and feel a new kind of love for him, show it. . . .
Start a scene as late in the action as you can and get out right after the change.