Prepared by: Gery Mitchell
Posted on: July 19, 2003
Reposted on: August 29, 2004
Have you ever read a memorial that was so
moving you found yourself
reacting even though you'd never actually met the person? This exercise
can be used to practice writing either fiction or nonfiction--use a
person (or animal) you know, or one of your characters (or even a
Even though a memorial is usually written
in honor of a
sad occasion, a life consists of so much more. Memorials
are often humorous, but they can also be antagonistic,
as in the case of someone who's led an infamous life.
In 300 words or less, write a memorial
your subject's life.
To critique, focus on how well you got a
sense of the memorial's
Gery Mitchell's wrap-up
Posted on: July 28, 2003
This exercise certainly inspired some
takes on the topic! It seemed the submissions that
stayed "on topic" worked quite well and were often
very moving. There was a tendency in some, however,
to lapse into narration or story-telling rather than
keeping the focus on characterization of the subject.
I think that's natural for writers, so it was a
challenge that wasn't always overcome.
This was true for the critiques as
"on topic" (whether or not the submission brought
the subject to life for the reader) and some merely
responded to whether or not the piece itself was
moving to the reader. Again, this is natural, so the
challenge wasn't always overcome. If the right muscles
get used, a good critique can be almost as much a
learning opportunity as the exercise itself.
All in all, a really great week.
all who participated!
Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: Tue, 7 Sep 2004
Last week's rerun of the Memorial exercise
Included were memorials to a wide variety of acquaintances - some to
some to casual acquaintances, family members, lovers, one memorial to
breasts and belly, a memorial to the writer Allen Ginsberg, a memorial
lost youth, and a memorial to a summer vacation.
The most successful submissions handled
emotions well. Emotions came
genuinely in a heartfelt way. Emotions were understated yet expressed
detailed anecdotes. Honest retelling of emotions without over
sentimentalizing generated good memorial stories. Humor was used. Using
emotion allowed writers to give a complete sketch of the person in a
of moods, without idealization or deprecation. Some of the most
memorials express the love for the memorialized through anecdotes and
details and remind us that we are capable of love despite the frailties
Simple retelling of facts was a technique
used. A list of a person's
was an effective technique used by submitters. Most successful
allowed us to remember similar events about the people and pets in our
lives. Details were sometimes represented in a lineal time frame. The
anecdotes selected showed the person's character and personality. The
narrator reached out to audience to reveal him/herself without
his/her role in the story. Having the narrator tell how the person
memorialized affected his/her life added meaning to several memorial
Using a favorite anecdote at the start can
set the mood of the
Memorials use many incidents and anecdotes to give a well-rounded look
the individual and examine the individual on several levels. Tone is
important, and telling in a linear fashion is helpful. Memorials may
always be written from a friendly perspective.
Although the idea of a memorial is to
remember the unique individual
stories and anecdotes, it may be wise to not tell too much. Leaving the
reader wanting more generates interesting writing. Including actions of
person memorialized and using other showing techniques enlivened the
memorials. Using the words and actions of the person being memorialized
effective ways to memorialize him or her.
Some problems to consider for the next
time we run the Memorial
to remember to write the memorial in a way that does not reveal more
the narrator/writer than the person memorialized. Second person
are more difficult to read and are generally not the best method to use
memorial writing. Length of the anecdotes in this 300-word count
forces use of shorter anecdotes. Relaying irrelevant stories and
too many characters weakens the memorial's perspective on the
As writers we glean ideas for characters
and for jump-starting
reading memorials. We see effective and less effective emotions that
instruct us on how to use emotion in our own writing. When writing a
memorial it may be best to give a well-rounded picture of the
including faults, in a nonjudgmental way. Humor is a great tool to
when used appropriately. Tributes are separate from memorials, and
a whole different practice exercise.
Well-written memorials allow us to delve
into our own experiences
emotions. It may not be easy to write a memorial if we are emotionally
involved with the person. For that reason in this exercise it may be an
alternative for some writers to use fictional characters. A good
can make the reader feel as if they knew a person they never met; or
they had known the person. The most successful memorials bear
Patricia L. Johnson
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.