Braiding and Backstory

Prior to taking a bash at a first draft of my memoir, I spent some time thinking about braiding and backstory as they applied to my writing.

The concept of ‘braiding’ your story line was mentioned in an article by Heather Sellers in the July/August 2009 issue of Writer’s Digest. I kept wondering what my story lines were besides little stories I had written of my childhood. Did I have separate story lines? When I started writing my memoir stories, I remember I was confused about whether I was writing one or three books: my story, my mother’s story and my father’s story. Since I was into genealogy and busy trying to trace my family history and compile a family tree, I had a lot of information and didn’t know how I was going to use it. Braiding helped me to think about these three strands as braids, a weaving of the three stories. I just needed to identify the scenes in each strand of the braid that best told my story in a way that came across to the reader as fresh and engaging.

Backstory is another writing concept that spoke to me as I struggled with my braids. I realized that my parents’ stories were my backstory and if I wanted to tell all three I could only do this very selectively using parts but not all of my parents’ stories. All the genealogy and background could go in a family history but not in my memoir. I needed to include only what is needed in a particular scene to reveal important information about the main character(s) and their history. My parents’ history is my backstory, my grandparents’ history is my parents’ backstory and so on. This seems so obvious now that I’ve sorted it out. Thinking these concepts through has led me to another one: plot. And how do you use plot in memoir writing?

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