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Add depth to your novel or memoir with this structural technique, Part 2

In my last blog post, I wrote about how author Elizabeth Rosner used a structural technique to add subtext to her novel. In today’s post, I share an example from a memoir.

In Lisa Dale Norton’s memoir Hawk Flies Above: Journey to the Heart of the Sandhills, she wrote 12 sections called “Notebooks” that created connections between chapters. Norton’s idyllic childhood ended when her parents divorced when Norton was 12. After 13 years of drifting, attending college, and surviving a rape where she was left for dead, Norton returned to Ericson, Nebraska. She began writing stories intertwined with threads of the landscape and its impact on her imagination and identity.

Norton weaves natural images of plants, wildlife and the landscape of her childhood summer home in Nebraska with an account of her search for self as she returns to the Sandhills, her childhood home.

“By lying close to the land, skin to sand, bone to wind, I believed I could merge with the grasses, with the hills. I believed I could become whole again. I did not know this on a conscious level.”

In the “Notebook: Horsetail,” entry, Norton describes hunting for the thin, green jointed stalks of the horsetail plant. She plucks a stem and pops it apart at each joint, fascinated by the plant’s clever design. This description offers subtext to illustrate her spiritual breakdown and recovery.

“Pop it apart at the joints and it lies in pieces, no longer whole. Yet a series of swift movements can rejoin those pieces, create a whole from parts, order from devastation.”

Norton’s writing draws parallels between the fragility of the heartland with her own fragility as she is still recovering from being assaulted. The “Notebook” entries connect the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next with metaphors.

Read part one of Add depth to your novel or memoir with this structural technique to learn more.

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