I can’t recall ever wanting to comment on a tv, movie, or video series, but after watching 9 of 10 episodes of the first season of Netflix’ MINDHUNTER, I feel compelled to spew forth kudos and congratulations in an effort (however small and insignificant) to assure there is a season two, three, four … well, you get the idea.
The fact that I’ve watched “only” 9 of the 10 episodes of season one is not an indication of my disinterest. Quite the contrary. I’ve purposefully and painfully contained myself to watching only one episode a day in order to delay the season’s demise and extend my gratification. Not sure whether to call it discipline or masochism, but regardless, MINDHUNTER is magnificent.
The basis for the series, from the book of the same name by John Douglas, is fascinating (rather than regurgitate a summary, google it), the cast is superb and surprisingly, not necessarily household names (again, google…), but most important to me – and the reason for my devotion – is the writing. The script is absolutely perfect. Like the recipe for a cake or the architectural plans for a house where each measurement is calculated for a specific outcome, the dialogue is so exact that each and every word sounds and feels like the only possible word that could be spoken. I found myself not only wanting to listen, but to write down everything I heard.
Granted, I’m already a true crime addict, so the theme of dissecting the minds of serial killers is my version of candy. For those who get squeamish on the subject of deviant and depraved behavior, this series could cause extreme emotional disturbance. Regardless, if you’re willing to take a walk down the dark alley to experience and appreciate the skill of MINDHUNTER’s storytelling, I believe your own writing will be the better for it.
You might not sleep well (if at all), but just think… you can use all those wide-awake hours to scribble something spectacular. #mindhunter #mindblowing
As I prepare to participate in a panel discussion on writing non-fiction and memoirs for the Central Oregon Writers Guild (and shamelessly promote the event!) I thought I’d share these points:
Your best chance of writing a salable memoir is to read as many successful memoirs as you can. Here are a few examples (in alpha order by author, not necessarily by rank):
- Augusten Burroughs ~ Running with Scissors
- Elizabeth Gilbert ~ Eat, Pray, Love
- Howard Shulman ~ Running from the Mirror
- JD Vance ~ Hillbilly Elegy
- Jeannette Walls ~ The Glass Castle
Each memoir is unique, but if your story can illustrate a theme that resonates so that others can identify with your experiences, you will have a more memorable (haha) book.
- Surviving horrific challenges (Running from the Mirror)
- Coping with a parent’s mental illness (Running with Scissors)
Tell the truth (be real, for better or worse, because that’s what gives you credibility).
- If you fudge on details to make yourself or others look better or change names, why are you writing a memoir? Write a nice fictional romance and be done with it.
But… don’t get hung up on accuracy.
- Unless writing that you were home at 2:00 instead of 2:30 proves you didn’t rob the bank, don’t be specific with every detail, or readers will miss the big picture.
- Eliminate junk words. “I remember being three-years-old when blah blah blah.” Of course you remember; it’s your memoir! Just say what you need to say: “I was three-years-old when …”
Come up with a great opening line to get the reader into your story.
- Yes, this is true for any book — fiction or non-fiction. For some reason, though, memoirists feel it is more important to be factual than dramatic and entertaining.
- Cut scenes or situations that are irrelevant to your theme(s). You do not have to include every single life event. Remember, a memoir is not an autobiography!
- Combine or rearrange sentences that begin with the word “I.”
- Find and delete repeated words (-ly words, such as “quickly,” however, really, just). We all have favorites that we don’t even realize we overuse. Readers, will find them and get annoyed!
- If you find yourself skimming a paragraph, consider deleting it. If it doesn’t interest you, it’s a good bet your readers won’t be interested, either.
Print out your manuscript. It’s amazing what you’ll catch on a physical copy.
Read your manuscript aloud. If you stumble over phrases or sentences, it’s quite possible your readers will, too.
And finally, competition for readers’ attention is fierce. For greatest chance of success, your story must be in the best possible shape. Hint: get a professional editor!