A-Z Challenge: G is for…

Gornick’s Situation and Story

Memoir Writing

This post is one of 26 I am writing for the A-Z Challenge on the subject of writing a memoir. I’m not an expert in writing memoirs, but I’m exploring the topic with thoughts about writing one, and am happy to share the fruits of my exploration.



In her book, The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative, Vivian Gornick differentiates between these two easily-confused terms. Actually, it’s not the terms that people confuse, because as far as I know Gornick is the only one who uses them. It’s the concept that there are two things going on.

Gornick’s “situation” is the collection of scenes, the where, who and what. The story is the emotional journey the narrator travelled while traversing the scenes. This is what the reader really wants to understand. Without a story, the situation has no interest, or not much.

To illustrate a major point in the book, Gornick describes a speech that moved her while others didn’t. When she analysed the reasons why this particular speech was different from the rest, she came to the conclusion that the speaker was able to choose who she needed to be for the purpose of the speech. That is, out of all her roles in her life, she chose the one that fitted the theme of her speech and stuck to it. She says, “Because the narrator knew who was speaking, she also knew why she was speaking.”

Who am I for the purpose of my memoir? I think I have to be a person who has been affected by social anxiety. The fact that I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a cousin, a friend, a maths graduate, a former computer programmer, a dancer, a chief cook and bottle washer and more is only relevant if any of these roles have some bearing on social anxiety, or if social anxiety has affected these roles.

Do you know who you are?

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life. Social anxiety warrior. Cultivating a Fuji, edition 3, a poignant, humorous and uplifting tale, published with Ocelot Press, January 2023.

4 replies on “A-Z Challenge: G is for…”

It’s very difficult to differentiate here. We may wear different hats for different roles, and for you social anxiety may be the overriding influence but being a wife influences being a mother and being a maths graduate may influence being a friend or a sister. You can’t isolate any one influence and I expect that the roles have had an effect, both positive and negative on your social anxiety and visa versa. Do you see what I mean?

Rosalind Adam is Writing in the Rain

I think so. And I think that’s what I was trying to say. So I might write about my friendships at university, but I wouldn’t write about the eccentric professor, however funny he was, because he has no connection with my social anxiety.

Hi, Well, golly gee…I hope after 79 years on this mortal coil, I know who I am. 🙂 Not enough space here to write all I’m thinking. I’m a mama, grandma, great grandma, have been a wife, now a widow, retired teacher/librarian, friend to many, quilter, crafter, writer, Sunday School teacher, but most of all a follower of Jesus. Thanks for the interesting post. Ruby

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