Collage in Memoir: Building a Story from Small PiecesView Course
A collaged approach to memoir composes a narrative through fragments and found items, building a story from many smaller pieces.
This is a fundamental-level course designed for writers who are starting a memoir but are struggling with structure, daunted by form, or looking for an innovative way to tell their story. Are you wondering how you can craft a memoir from life’s twists and turns? Maybe you’ve been overwhelmed with the scope and don’t know where to begin. This class will guide you through a new way to write your story.
Over the course of 5 weeks, you’ll be introduced to the collage in memoir through written lectures and reading samples and compose your own short collaged essay. You will also receive practical guidance on establishing a writing schedule and developing your own best creative practices. You’ll have the opportunity to receive feedback from peers, as well as your instructor, that will help revise your writing and refine your project goals. At the end of the 5 weeks, you’ll have a structured plan to begin your collaged memoir!
Week 1: Introduction to memoir and narrative techniques
This week you’ll be introduced to memoir as a genre. We’ll explore historical as well as contemporary examples, detail keywords and definitions, and discuss length, scope, and perspective. We’ll examine traditional narrative structures including the Hero’s Journey, 3-part stories, and Freytag’s pyramid.
Week 2: Where to begin, determining the shape of your story
This week we’ll focus on where to begin a memoir, and how much time to cover. We’ll detail this process of “framing” in memoir and read examples that show vastly different approaches to dealing with time. We will also discuss the concept of the voice of experience vs. the voice to innocence and how narrative tone can help a memoirist guide a reader through time. Expanding on week one, we’ll learn how to chart, draw, and visualize our storylines.
Week 3: Collage and rethinking structure
This week you’ll be introduced to the principles of collage, collection, curation, and braiding as they apply to memoir. We’ll read short examples demonstrating each approach to structure and have to opportunity to explore our own stories through a series of quick, generative prompts focused on structure. Using the frame you’ve created in Week 2, you’ll learn how to break that timeline down into smaller units including essays and flash nonfiction.
Week 4: Found items, photographs, and other forms of research
We’ll build on the principles of collage by learning how to incorporate additional material to your memoir including photographs, found items, official documents, and diary entries. You’ll be introduced to the research process including considerations of citation, ethics, and bias. We’ll read examples from memoirs that use found items, images, and research and you’ll have the chance to write your own short piece from a photo-based writing prompt.
Week 5: Outlining, planning, and creating your best writing practice
This week will prepare you to begin writing your own memoir in collage. You’ll learn practical outlining and planning techniques that will help you organize your story. We’ll define the drafting steps from brainstorming to submission and discuss small and large-scale revisions. In addition, you’ll be guided through the process of creating your own best writing practice to increase productivity, foster a writing community, and avoid feeling “blocked”.