Many of you will be leveraging your existing lay reports – blog or forum – as the raw data for a memoir. This means you are taking one kind of writing (dry, technical, jargon) and converting it into another (vivid, clear, dramatic). You are turning a report into a story. Let’s consider how to do that.
I’m currently writing volume three of my memoir. That was originally based on lay reports because I’d blogged every single lay from the period shortly after it happened. This gives me a great resource for the book: extreme detail, nothing forgotten, and an accurate picture of how it felt at the time. It also carries a few drawbacks.
- I was writing the blog to a technical crowd in a niche who had been following my blog posts and thus knew all about where I was, what I was up to, and all the in-jokes and innuendos I make.
- By writing it as a lay report, you already knew how it ended. There is no dramatic tension.
- By writing it in 2013, usually just a day or two after the events, I had great recall for details but didn’t have the perspective I have now, five years later. I’ve learned a lot since and ruminated on the larger sweep of my journey so it would be nice to let that inform the memoir version of the story.
- My key concerns in the blog post were to record events and to analyse why this particular pick-up was a success so I could thus develop my technique 
The challenge for a memoir writer is to keep all the advantages of the lay report while eliminating all the weaknesses, and if possible, to add more value through the longer word count and greater freedom that a memoir format allows. Let’s use an example of mine that I’ve recently worked on.
First, the original blog post. Give it a read, then the following comments will make far more sense. Let’s first look at the setting of the scene in the blog post vs it’s later re-write in the memoir. Firstly the blog:
“Girl 3 – On Saturday night in Lapa I’m pretty drunk. Suave points out a curvy black girl he thinks I’ll like so I give chase. Its an easy stop and she has faltering English. I’m full of ballsy insolence and soon mini-bounce her to the kerb. Ten minutes chat and I take a number and bounce again to a nearby bar then soon kiss close. The party is winding down by 3am, an hour or so later, so I suggest a motel. She says no. I lead her to a cab and try to bundle her in. She runs away”
Now how I rewrote it in the memoir 
My adrenaline still running high, Fernando and I went off to Lapa for the evening. It’s well known for its weekend street parties as tourists descend to sample the street vendor cocktails and food. It’s close to a favela so there’s an edgy vibe. Gringos like me can’t tell who are the honest poor come to have fun, from their less upstanding neighbours who’ve come to do their weekly cashless shop from the pockets and handbags of such gringos.
The party is all along one road that’s pedestrianised for the night and thronged with bars and restaurants, as well as lots of little makeshift stalls that magically appear then disappear just for the night. As a daygamer I was drawn to the high footfall, reasonable demographics, and soft bright gutter game vibe. It was by far the best street game I’d seen in the whole country. The only drawback was most girls hung out in groups.
My spirits were lifted. “My spirits are lifted” I told Fernando. “Maybe your country isn’t total shit after all.”
We stopped a few girls and cracked on, farming a few numbers, then posted up on a first floor balcony of a bar. Dusk was cutting in and the breeze was now refreshingly cool. I liked these bars. Colourful, lively, and gameable. It made me wish I was better at bar game.
We chatted a lot between ourselves and watched pro boxing on the bar’s television. Then we walked a little and found another bar. We gradually realised there weren’t so many classic daygame sets – solo girls walking somewhere – so we talked to a few girls standing around in groups. Fernando had a few solid-looking interactions whereas the language barrier hobbled me.
Fairly late on, when I was “in my cups”, I saw a girl sitting on a concrete traffic bollard at an intersection. The traffic was all blocked off and a crowd filled the road. She had a bottle of beer I’d seen her buy from a street vendor a few metres away. The couple of friends she’d been with had disappeared into the crowd, no doubt socialising.
I fancied her. My spider sense told me I should open.
“Hi. I’m Nick” I said, a big smirk on my face. She smiled and indicated me to sit on the bollard next to her.
Rebecca had dark shoulder-length hair in a soft wet perm, a lovely beguiling smile and good hips. She had the hamster look and her English was passable. It went well.
Being black, I assumed she was a favela kid.”
That’s 421 words in the memoir to describe a scene that’s three sentences in the blog. Rather than say “On Saturday night I’m in Lapa and I’m drunk” I actually set the scene of what Lapa is like with it’s people, it’s look, and it’s feel. I’ve written Fernando in as a character who has dialogue so I can build the friendship in the book (he doesn’t speak in this excerpt but he does before and after). The conversation with Rebecca is written as dialogue and events, not as an executive summary. She even has a name! The memoir style works well for indicating how you feel and what your thoughts were at the time, in this case I talk about my adrenalin (I’d just been mugged at gunpoint two hours earlier), my spirits and my assumptions about her.
Let’s look at the next 191 words to rewrite the second half of the blog excerpt above:
“No, I am an auxiliary administrator” she said. I recognised her employer’s name, a mega-corporation. She further told me she’s twenty-four, from Bahia, Salvador, in southernmost Brazil, and was working part time while studying law. It was going well and after five minutes I felt it was really on. Rebecca kept staring at me wide-eyed like a deer caught in a car’s headlights.
I moved her to a bench a couple of metres away, and we made out. It was well after midnight and the party was winding down, so I decided to pull the trigger. Fernando had already texted that he was going off to do sets until I finished.
“Let’s go to a motel” I suggested, remembering Ana from the carnival.
“No, I should go home” she remonstrated.
We walked further down the road, my mind on getting her away from friends who may pop up at any moment. She was leaning into me and smiling so when we reached a taxi rank I tried to pull her in.
“No! I don’t want” she said, and scurried off quickly. I got the taxi home alone.
Again the principle lesson is that I’ve turned an executive summary of events into a scene. It has dialogue, characters, and actions. So, the learning points for you are:
- Take your time. You have a lot more words in the memoir so you can afford to patiently set the scene, include your inner thoughts, and expand on events.
- Try to turn summary of “she did this, then I did that” into a scene in which characters interact and there’s dialogue. Don’t say “She said she wanted to go” as a summary, but instead let her say it as dialogue.
- Cut out most of the PUA jargon and instead use regular English.
- In the blog you are the centre of the world and everyone else is a prop. In the memoir you are the narrator and main character, but there are also other characters who have their own motivations, lives, and who express themselves through dialogue and action.
NEWS: I had an email from UPS today to say no-one was in when the final Daygame Infinite test print was delivered. Bullshit. I was sitting by the door all morning . I’m guessing the driver got the wrong house. It’s due for redelivery tomorrow. If that test print is good I’ll officially release. You can buy the pre-release full colour version here.
COMMENTS: Remember, all comments discussing the content of Daygame Infinite should be collected on this post, to keep them all in one place.
 And of course to boast. “Look at me! I got laid again!”
 Second draft, mind you, so don’t expect Dickens.
 In my monster feet and dressing gown