“Leave your readers with their mouths open in awe, or laughing hysterically, or crying tears of sympathy and sadness—all three,” writes The Write Life Team


Because that keeps audiences engaged. And that’s important because it enables them to join you in your experience, learn from you, and apply your life lessons to their own lives

I’m talking about offering readers takeaways: your insights that they can apply to their own lives, lessons you learned that will guide them in the future, a resource for living life well, a reason to hope, a reason to trust God, and a better understanding of themselves.

And so, your memoir needs to evoke an emotional response in readers

“Take them on an emotional journey which will provoke them to read the next chapter, [and] wonder about you well after they finish the last page,” the Write Life Team continues.

“The best way to evoke these feelings in your readers is to connect your emotions . . . with pivotal events happening through your narrative arc [plot].”

Regarding that narrative arc, or plot, the Team says, “In school, our teachers used to draw a ‘mountain’ and once we reached the precipice, we were to fill in the climactic point of the book. . . . You need to create enough tension to shape your overall story, as well as each individual chapter, with that narrative arc.” (The Write Life Team

With that in mind, let’s get back to what we’ve been studying in recent weeks, Wilkie Collins’s advice to writers: “Make ‘em cry, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em wait

Making readers cry means that in order for you to write about your painful experiences, you must re-live that pain. (See Make ‘em cry along with you as you cry

When you’re ready to write the seared, charred, blistered parts, Bill Roorbach, in his Writing Life Storiessuggests you utilize method writing, a spin-off of method acting

Here’s how method actingworks: Before the curtain rises, the actor remembers a time in which he experienced the emotion he needs to act out. He spends time reliving that emotion so that when he steps on stage, he’s all wrapped up in that emotion and succeeds in playing his part.

Method writing, then, requires you to step out of the present and into the past. If you’re writing about a tragic event, take time (make time) to remember the event and relive it so you can discover the emotions you felt

Avoid over-the-top hysteria but be honest in admitting your emotions.

While reliving that situation and emotion, ask yourself:

What was at stake? What did I have to lose or gain?What dreams would never come true?At the time, how did I envision my life would never be the same?What did I fear most?Where would I find courage to live another day?What did I pray for??—beg God for?

When you’re caught up again in that emotion, get it onto paper or computer screen. Remember: You’re only writing a rough draft. You can revise it later. For now, begin by searching for the best words.

Your “emotion should be so realistic and gripping

that the reader can’t help but feel it too.”

Becca Puglisi

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