Tips for Writing Memoir
- Memoir is not an autobiography but rather a selected aspect of a life. No event in your life is too small, but the details are important.
- There is a universality to memoirs.
- Honesty and Sincerity: Is the narrator authentic? When you are talking about yourself, you are talking about all of us to a certain degree; that’s the universal element. The struggle for emotional truth is central to memoir.
- Intimacy: The hallmark of memoir is its intimacy with its audience.
- Language in memoir is conversational, everyday, direct.
- Humor: Be willing to laugh at yourself, reveal your foibles. We all have them.
- Self-Reflection: The essence of memoir is the track of the writer’s thoughts struggling to understand some event in her life. What have you learned from this event?
- Character: In writing memoir, you have to make yourself into a believable character. What do you want to know about the people you write about, including yourself?
- Scenes: Vignettes, episodes, slices of reality are the building blocks of memoir. Get the reader into the scene with you. What’s happening? Who’s there? What’s the interaction?
- Voice and Tense: Start with the personal I (1st-person narrative). Start in the past tense. You are writing about the past in the present. This is what happened then; this is what I know now. You can write in the present tense later!
- Purpose: What’s the purpose in writing memoir? Self-discovery, understanding another, healing a relationship, finding a broader perspective, telling a story that must be told?
- Have fun!
Photo credit: “Stairwell” by Maureen Murdock