Mistakes Writers Make About Conflict In Memoirs

Mistakes Writers Make About Conflict In Memoirs


In this post from Writers Write, your one-stop writing resource, we write about conflict in memoirs.

Remember that you are a character in a book to the readers who have bought your memoir. They want to be entertained.

Mistakes Writers Make About Conflict In Memoirs

A common mistake memoirists make is to concentrate on the inner conflict in their memoir at the expense of outer conflict.

As Chuck Palahniuk says: ‘One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. Reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very, very little time alone. Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.’

Even though human beings are their own worst enemies, too much interior examination bores readers.

For a memoir to work, we need:

  1. External Conflict. We should be dealing with an antagonist – the person or company or illness who opposes you – and creating external conflict.
  2. Internal Conflict. The external conflict leads to us confronting our own demons and creating internal conflict.

Good memoirists layer stories with both types of conflict.

External Conflict In Memoirs

Do not include every conversation and every fight in your memoir. Include conflict that counts and that allows you to show your story.

External conflict should be:

  1. Specific
  2. Engaging
  3. Serious
  4. Urgent
  5. Personal

Use confrontations and incidents as action scenes to show what happened to you. Make sure that most of them answer these five requirements.

Internal Conflict In Memoirs

Remember that readers will abandon your story if you wallow in your misery.

Internal conflict can be:

  1. Mental – Can I do this?
  2. Moral – Should I do this?
  3. Emotional – Am I strong enough to do this?

Use showing techniques to get you out of your head and allow you to show how you feel. Use body language, dialogue, and interior thought.

Chuck Palahniuk also says: ‘Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating.’

P.S. If you want to learn how to write a memoir, join our Secrets of a Memoirist course.

© Amanda Patterson

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