Tuesday, September 6, 2016

WritersLife.org: How to Write a Memorable Memoir

.How To Write A Memorable Memoir - Writer's Life.org

To resonate with others there are some key ingredients to writing a  memorable memoir, says today's topic on WritersLife.org.  Even though I've been working on mine for months now, I still had to read this article.  Here is how I have worked in these key ingredients:

1. Overcoming difficulties
As with all good fiction, there needs to be a struggle, a conflict or a journey littered with obstacles that need to be overcome.
Every reader will have faced difficulties in their lives, and reading about the strength and determination of other people facing theirs is both comforting and inspiring.
Tough experiences and recovering from them are something we have all gone through, so when reading about other people’s problems, even if they are very different from our own, we can identify, resonate, and sympathise with them.
This is very true of any memoir. Especially that last line. Being able to resonate with another person's memoir on a similar subject can also be key to making you tell your own, as was true with me. 
2.  Introducing humour
Life is full of weird and wonderful experiences. Sharing these with your reader will bring smiles to their faces. No matter how tough your life has been your memoir shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Try to make sure you have some laughter in there too.
I'm not sure how well I did on this one :-) But I'm still working on it, so I will be going over it again. I did mention how I told my psychiatrist how I'd thought my phone was ringing when it actually wasn't doing so and how as a result of this leaned the term "ringxiety." When I showed my boss my early handwritten draft, she laughed upon seeing this quote.  So I guess I did introduce some humor.
3.  Being truthful
There is a difference between embellishing the truth and understanding how to weave a good yarn, and simply lying outright. The former is accepted in a memoir, the latter is not. Memoirs don’t have to be written word for word as they happened, they don’t have to be chronological, they don’t have to be 100% factual, but they do have to be truthful. There is no reason why you can’t be creative and imaginative in your memoir but make sure you don’t make false claims, sweeping generalisations, or fabricate your entire story.
I was well aware that a memoir does not have to remembered verbatim and that you need only include what you feel is important to your story. Also, I did not go chronologically in most cases, something someone I know mentioned after she read the pdf of my story I'd sent by e-mail. But in many instances, it was to contrast what happened in one instance vs. another. For example, one chapter is devoted to many different things over several years that I never go to do or have.  Another is about what occurred to me personally in 2001, in the weeks leading up to bombing.  

As I have said in past blog posts, I was uncertain if I wanted to attempt a memoir, but decided to do so after what I'd begun to write seemed like such.  I was primarily worried about using real names of others, so I chose to use fictional names. In some cases, I made some people into two or three different people in order to further disguise them.

4. Create a journey
Memoirs are journeys, ones which the reader is invited to join the writer on as they discover themselves and learn and grow. Your memoir needs to show this, to explain how your experiences have shaped who you are today and what lessons you learnt along the way.
This was pretty obvious to me from memoirs I have read. Going onto Prozac was the journey that my memoir has told.

5.  Make it personal
For readers to emotionally engage with your memoir you need to give yourself to them, you need to open up. Be detailed, descriptive and emotional and you are sure you have your readers hooked.
If I had not wanted others to hear my story, I never would have tried to write it in the first place. And I'm sure the same is true of those who have already written and published their memoirs.  


Tamara Narayan said...

Good luck with this. I like to stick to fiction, but sometimes I will stick in a piece of my life, well disguised.

Sandra Cox said...

I think #5 would be the hardest.
Kudos to you.

Stephanie Faris said...

Great tips! I can imagine writing a memoir would really be therapeutic. Writing everything out is probably better than seeing a counselor!