Acclaimed author Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop knew the best way to tell the story of her parents lives was through memoir—a genre she'd never tried. Here, she shares six writing techniques that helped her shift from fiction to memoir. When I first thought of telling the story of my parents' love affair in London during World War II, I wanted to write it as a novel. After all, I'd written fiction for readers of all ages and even though, in Eudora Welty's wise words, “each story teaches me how to write it but not how to write the next one,” the story had such potential. My 16-year-old British mother met my 28-year-old American father at a dinner in a baronial castle in Yorkshire, England, on August 31, 1942, the exact day that my mother's only brother was dive-bombed by a German Stuka in Egypt. What a scene , I thought. What timing. Roll the cameras. It didn't take me long to realize that it was going to be much too hard to create fictional characters based on the real people I knew. How could I presume to understand my mother's fears as she heard the bombs dropping on the church across the street from her flat or my father's horror at the killings he witnessed in the Italian campaign? Early in the writing process, I made two crucial decisions. I would write my family history as a memoir, a genre I'd never attempted. And I would focus on my mother. […]
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