May 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
Lee Martin, a great teacher, superb novelist, and outstanding memoirist, has given some recent thought to what he can do with voice in memoir versus what he can do in fiction. Here’s an excerpt, with a link to the whole discussion at the end. Lee has a new novel, out in a few weeks, and it will be a wonderful read, trust us:
So … what can I do with voice in memoir that I don’t necessarily do in a first-person novel? Let’s see if I can throw out some thoughts to see what thoughts of your own they might provoke…
1. My voice can be extremely earnest in a memoir, its directness and intensity and “me-ness” (for lack of a better term), more readily accepted than such a voice sometimes is in a novel where irony is often the thing that tempers the overly urgent and reflective response to experience.
2. I can live within that reflective voice longer and more intensely in a memoir. I can let action, and character, and image, and dialogue wait for me as long as I prove to be interesting in those “voice of experience” passages.
3. I can be more people (more parts of my persona) in that reflective voice in the memoir as opposed to the first-person narrator who is usually more distinctly divided between “before” and “after” in a novel. Perhaps the memoir form more clearly announces the layers of the narrator’s persona, and, as a result, the voice becomes more textured, made up of more sounds coming from a number of different aspects of the narrator’s character.
… Things slow down for me in memoir. The form gives me permission to linger over small details and large actions as well. My voice becomes more textured with nuances of tones and personae. It embraces and gives full throat to the person who lives simultaneously within the experience being narrated and the various, countless positions I occupy beyond that experience. To me, my voice in memoir more readily gives expression to the multiple pieces of myself that create it, whereas in a piece of fiction there seems to be a more demarcated distinction between the voice of the character within the narrative sequence and the voice-over of the storyteller relating that tale.