Viewing new releases in our new, personal publishing era, one is struck with the number of narratives which, mainly, chronicle events and anecdotes in the writer’s life. This recently popular genre is called memoirs. While chronicling memories isn’t necessary bad, it seems appropriate to consider writing with purpose.
Think of the proverbial “flat-bottom boat” heard of in the song Heart of Oak written by David Garrick back in 1759.
Your boat strikes out from the dock. On it you have assembled a sail and a rudder in the rear. Inevitably, the wind arises and moves the boat in its direction. This is fine until you want to change the direction, moving the rudder to the left and right. Sadly, this only moves the boat’s rear to the left or the right. The direction of movement continues to follow the wind’s force.
In the same way, a writer can just lay out life experiences in a random form, perhaps just to get them down on paper. Memories arise and the story (or chronology) just follows them along. The writer attempts to steer them one way or another, but the memories blindly carry on, limiting the author to one or two perspectives. Charitably, this may be called stream of consciousness.
Now think of a boat with a centerboard. A sailboat, that is, when also supplied with mast, sail, and rudder. The centerboard or keel is a protuberance below the craft running along the lines of the boat. It keeps the boat from drifting to the right or the left.
When your boat has a keel, it’s possible to create a triangle of force between rudder and sail so the wind will carry the boat in the direction you desire.
Which brings us back to the memoir writer. If the writer has a centering like the centerboard or keel, it’s possible to move the story along in a purposeful direction. For example, the writer might create 20 chapters with a conclusion showing how these life experience have taught a truth. Now the memoir does more than just chronicle a series of experiences – it also makes a point.
While I admire pure memoir writing, I prefer a book that drives toward a point. That’s what I call writing with purpose.
Writers - put a keel in your craft and give it a try!