Worksheet #13 – Basics of Writing Memoir
- What is the subject/focus of your memoir?
- Will this be short (article or essay) or long (book) length?
- Who experienced this with you?
- Who will appear in the memoir?
- What is the significant event you want to explore?
- How did it change you?
- What is your goal in sharing you memoir?
- Will your family, friends, colleagues support your exploration?
- Will anyone be offended?
- Will you need to make any factual or character alterations?
- Do you have dependable memories of this event?
- Are there supporting materials to add context?
How do you proceed?
Pinpoint theme. Record memories as scenes. Research supporting materials. Interview other people in the memoir. Decide on opening scene. Decide on ending scene. Organize middle scenes. Write, review, revise, polish.
- Chronological – events are in order as they occurred.
- Episodic – events are not in calendar order, but jump around to suit theme, not time.
- Anecdotal – mini stories connected by theme, interspersed with sections of facts.
- Vignettes – a collection of scenes that are connected by theme without a clear chronology.
- Open with the inciting incident and move forward in a linear, chronological direction.
- Open with the end of the story and go back to show how the narrator reached this point
- Open with a particular, dramatic episode that illustrates the theme
- Open with factual information related to the memoir
How do you choose an opening?
What best fits your subject? Does one particular scene sets the story in motion? Is there a scene from the end of the story that’s dramatic? Did the story start when you were so young, you can’t write it? Is there a particular scene from the middle of the story that illustrates the theme well?
How do you organize the middle?
Does each scene support the theme? Does each scene show growth, change, or conflict? Do middle scenes focus on other people? Is there a natural journey toward a climax?
How do you end a memoir?
The end of the story answers the question presented at the beginning. The end shows how a character survived/grew/changed. The end shows what’s become of the subject/s of the memoir. The end illustrates a narrative conclusion. The end brings closure to the story, though not necessarily to the subject.
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