How To Write Memoirs

The most personal way to tell your own story is in the form of a memoir. A memoir may be an autobiographical book intended for publication, or it may simply be a way to record details from your own life so that family members and future generations will have the work to cherish. A memoir is usually much shorter than a standard autobiography, and generally focuses on a specific time period or set of circumstances rather than the entire lifetime.

  1. Choose the events to tell. The events that make up a memoir should take place during a set period of time, encompassing weeks, months or a few years. They should be events that had an impact on the rest of your life and make a complete story by themselves.

  2. Decide what to leave out. There are many memoirs who seem to use a "warts and all" approach to storytelling, dishing all the dirt and perhaps even looking for shock value. But many writers will choose to leave out the more embarrassing details from a memoir--especially when they concern a friend or relative who will be present in the book. As long as those details are not central to the story, it may be best to leave a few things out and keep the relationship intact.

  3. Use emotion to tell the story. Memoirs are usually very emotional works in which the emotions surrounding the events are as important as the events themselves. Use your own perspective to convey the emotion, staying true to the emotions that were present during the time in question.
  4. Use novel form. A memoir is written much like a novel in its form and structure. It will have a setting, characterization phase, climax, and a denouement like a novel. It may even use foreshadowing and motifs to illustrate the story.
  5. Use the events in an overall context. The events described should be significant in the memoir writer's life. They should show some type of understanding about how the events affected the rest of your life, and perhaps how the understanding of the events has changed through the years.
  6. Fictionalize. Most memoirs rely to some degree on fictionalization, as it is rare for anyone to remember exact conversations that took place years ago, the name of everyone involved, etc. A memoir should be the truth, but it will have to rely at least in part on fictionalized details.

A writer doesn't have to be famous these days to write a memoir. A compelling story that is well-written and makes a deep emotional connection with the reader has a chance to be as popular as any on the bestseller lists.


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