Getting together with my writing group is always fun — I never know what someone is going to come up with. This time around our two presenters both submitted non-fiction pieces. Each had a lot of promise and as always, in between bites of lunch, we talked about different ways to bring out under-developed aspects of the pieces in order to push them to a new level.
Reading one of them over, I had an idea that I threw out which my friend and the author David, decided to run with. The piece was written in memoir style. I read sometime ago that one way to strengthen memoir-type writing is to substitute a third person “he” or “she” for the first-person narrator.
This approach lets you treat whatever story you’re telling as a work of fiction. It can give you distance and perspective — and help you enrich what you’ve written because it frees you from the “I” that experienced everything. Once you’ve recast the story using this approach, you can eliminate the third-person point of view and go back to telling it through the first-person voice.
I’ve never tried this myself, but it sounds like an interesting way to shake up a story and give it richer, fuller feeling. David really liked the idea and said he’s going to give it a try. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with and to hearing whether this strategy really worked for him.
Sometimes we get so tied to or entranced by one point of view that we forget there are a hundred different ways to enter a story and make it work. So forcing yourself to change your perspective or to start a story in a fresh new way can really be helpful. It can surprise or even shock you into rethinking some ideas about what you’re trying to say and how you’re trying to say it. Sometimes you can find that your original approach is more constraining than you realize.
So if you’re hitting a rough spot on something you’re working on, why not mix it up a bit and see if you can shake some new ideas loose? Who knows what fabulous new angles and artful words you might come up with! Write on!