Updated: Sep 6
1. Memoir is not autobiography. You do not “start” at the beginning.
Memoir is a “slice of life.”
2. Write about any time or event in your life that you want to.
It does not have to be a major event, major loss, or major gain.
As long as you feel strongly about it, write about it.
3. Think about who you are writing for.
If you are writing for yourself as a way to remember, it’s different than writing with the intention that others will read it. By “others” I mean family and friends. It’s not a given that just because they know you, or are your family, that they will be interested. It’s your job to make it interesting for others.
4. Memoir is story telling. Again, unless you are only writing for yourself you should try to incorporate some fiction techniques:
(A) Structure. Try to have a beginning/middle/end .
(B) Plot. Is something learned from beginning to end? Have you changed from the start to the end?
(C) Dialogue. If other people are involved in the story, try to find places where they speak instead of you describing what they said. If you can’t recall the exact words they used, write something that sounds as much like them as possible. Dialogue makes people come alive.
(D) Theme. Is the underlying “motif” of a story. The theme could be “victimhood,” or “loss,” for example.
Often we don’t know that there is a theme until we have already written. And, often it’s others who point it out to us: “You know, you write about loss a lot.” If you do detect a theme in your work, you might want to explore it with a memoir about a time or an incident or event about that theme.
5. Memoir does not have to be “dramatic.” A nice childhood memory is perfectly fine to write about. If it is well written, the reader will be satisfied.