Flash memoir: Characters and their desires

Two months ago I began a series of “writing workshop” posts here on Flash Memoir. Today that series continues with a look at Characters and their desires.

How will you bring the diverse cast of characters in your stories to life on the page? First, consider which roles they play.

  • Protagonists–in memoir, that’s usually you, writing in the first person voice, becoming both “I” and “eye” through which readers perceive the dramatic action of the story;
  • Allies and supporting characters–the people who have your back and help you achieve your goals and desires; and
  • Antagonists and adversaries–the people who bring conflict into the story, by thwarting your goals and desires, for good or ill.

And then, there’s that fourth, complicated, category–the Beloved Adversary.

Tristine Rainer, author of Your Life as Story, gave this name to the characters who love us and wish us well, but have a different desire line than we do. Parents are perhaps the most pervasive of these character types. Note the interplay of adversarial parent/child relationships in this example by Seth Kahan:

Got thoughts on bringing out characters and their desires in our writing? Post to the comments section! And stay tuned for Part 4 of this four-part series on Flash Memoir.

© Sarah White 2018

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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