Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Say it in Six: Plugging characters into the 6-word Memoir

Today I want to share a writing exercise I learned in graduate school that is designed to help students distill the essence of a novel or character in a brief sentence: the six word memoir! I think this exercise can also help writers to better understand their own stories. Writing a succinct pitch is already hard enough, so why cut the kernel sentence down to just six measly words? Because characters all have conflicting desires that result in different choices, consequences, and outcomes, and confining those truths to just 6 words can lay bare core traits.

For example, here is a pair of 6 word memoirs I made up for Harry Potter and Voldemort:

Friends—loyalty more powerful than magic.

Kill you first to live forever.

Perhaps this is just a fun little exercise, but maybe it can also teach you about what your character is willing to risk, or where the heart of your story lies. The core of several of my novels can be summed up something like this:

True magic is will over wand.

Even fool's courage sparks dragon fire.

Sun shines second star to sisters (accidental alliteration, I swear!).

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