Reading and Writing Autobiography, 21W.022.02; Fall 2016
Creative Stretch—Story-telling and Crossing Genres
For this final autobiographical piece, I am encouraging you to stretch creatively—to try something new in style or genre, in a direction that seems right for you.
Option #1: Tell Us a Story; The Next Chapter
This last section of the course will begin and end with oral story-telling. Since good story-telling is so essential to autobiography, one option for your final piece of writing is to try using your story-telling talents more fully on the page. How might you write another chapter in your life, incorporating the elements of story-telling to best advantage?
Ask yourself what subject or story would give your readers a strong sense of what you encountered as you grew up: Whom did you meet? Where did you go? What challenging situations did you confront, and how did you find your way through them? What experiences brought you fresh insight and helped you to begin defining your independent identity? What inspired you in some direction, or tested your sense of justice? And, of course: What do you want to write about?
What about stretching towards fiction—taking your own experience and using it as the seed for a fictional story, as Junot Diaz does in “Fiesta,” giving his autobiographically inspired narrator a different name (Junior)? Or what about converting your story to third person: i.e. by using “he” or “she” as opposed to “I”?
In any case, as you write, let us get close to your experience by introducing us to characters, and by incorporating scenes, sensory description, and dialogue. Always keep in mind the “I must tell you” that motivates the telling of the story and gives it coherence. What thread of growing insight underlies the chronology of events (or plot) you choose to convey? What are you discovering here? What understanding does this story help you (and us) achieve? How might your response to the social and emotional complexities you encounter inform a reader about the world which we all, ultimately, share?
Option #2: Crossing Genres
In keeping with the creative, cutting-edge spirit of MIT (and the Comparative Media Studies department, of which we are a part), I encourage you to also consider creating a “hybrid” piece—one that takes advantage of new and old media alike.
Consider using graphic elements more consistently to tell your story, drawing your own images or incorporating visual artifacts from your past—or even creating a graphic story as Abigail Choe does. Consider a blog series or a podcast, or…..? Do check in with me in person or by email if you’re considering crossing genres.