Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Season as Memoir

Last week, we spoke about ways of structuring longer stories, and we considered parallel story lines, in particular the story of a physical journey that is mirrored by a mental or emotional one as well.

This week, I'd like to consider another structuring: story as description/story as scrapbook. 

For the sake of using an image that those of us in Western Pennsylvania can by and large relate to, consider your story as a Christmas/Holiday tree (or any other thing that is dear to you--a collection, a room decorated in your style, your wardrobe, etc.).  On that tree are numerous ornaments.  Each reflects you to a certain degree.  Each has a story of how it came to be yours, why you have kept, and how it ended up where it has on your tree.  Each individual story tells us something about you.  Moving through these stories should not only give us an overall view of the tree--a photograph as it were--but it ought to give us a new perspective as well--more like a movie taking us from seeing the tree from the outside at the bottom to seeing the room from the tree on top of the star.  Eudora Welty's The Golden Apples follows this structure as does Nikki Grimes's Bronx Masquerade.

For this coming week, consider a collection of sorts--your ornaments on your tree, a scrapbook of photos that you keep, the contents of your fridge.  Choose one of two assignments:
  • Write a story about a single element in the collection and include some kind of transitional moves that show us how it would fit in the overall progression of elements; or
  • Write a short list as a poem, prologue, or annotated table of contents that will outline the descriptive storyline.