Writing Memoirs and the Art of Emotion

I think I will
continue my pattern for posts this month and discuss another one of my
favourite non-fiction authors but in a completely different genre: memoirs.
Frank McCourt wrote his book Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir
about his experience growing up and living in Ireland in the
1930s to 40s. The conditions were terrible, the poverty was heart-wrenching, and
the powerful glimpses into humanity and the strength of the human spirit are
unparalleled in any other book I’ve read.
The depth and
insight of this book is a healthy reminder to those of us that often live in
the world of fiction with our writing to stay grounded. No matter the genre,
the thing that keeps us all connected to our writing is our emotions. Maybe it’s
not true for some of you, but I know that whenever I am starting to write a
piece of fiction I begin to feel myself detaching emotionally, which is often
accompanied by a lack of inspiration, inevitably leading to the infamous writer’s
I find things
like emotionally charged books (memoirs like Angela’s Ashes), a good, emotionally driven song, or another
powerful piece of artwork is a good snap back to reality. It is a  good reconnect to
our emotions and, by default, an excellent inspiration. We have spoken a little
bit about this before, but I figured it was worth mentioning again.
So that’s what
we can take from the experience of reading a book like Angela’s Ashes, but what can we take from it as writers looking to
better our writing? For starters, the amazing way McCourt taps into descriptive
devices to paint a vivid picture for his readers. I think most of us wish this
for our writing. We want to transport our reader to a place we have created or
been so that they can be right there beside us as we tell the story. Just like
I mentioned in the last post, it is all about making your readers believe in
the experience relating to them and making them believe something could be the
way you describe it. What’s the fastest way to do this? Tap into their empathy and desire to be emotionally invested in something beyond themselves.

McCourt does
this artfully as do many other writers of memoirs. For example, I just started reading the gripping memoir “Orange is the New Black” that the hit Netflix series is based on. What
it comes down to is a simple concept: if you want to figure out how to connect
emotionally with your readers and fascilitate their connection to your story,
you have a lot to learn from people who write about their own personal and
deeply emotional journeys. That’s not to say all memoirs are gems, but there
are a few out there, and I would say Angela’s
is one such gem.