The Key Elements of Writing a Good Memoir | Writer's Digest

 

how to write a good memoir essay

Apr 20,  · A successful memoir essay might be written about the two years you spent just out of high school working in a small town five-and-dime (back when every small town had a five-and-dime), or it could relate the story of your successful two-year battle with cancer at age forty. Oct 14,  · If all that sounds essential to your memoir-writing process, it’s because it is. So let’s take a look at exactly how to build your arc, starting with the key elements: the desire line, actions and obstacles, emotional beats, the initiating incident and, of course, the ending. Apr 04,  · Don’t write in a snarky manner or with a bitter tone. The motivation for writing a memoir shouldn’t be to exact revenge or whine or seek forgiveness; it should simply be to share your experience. Don’t exaggerate or bend the truth in your memoir. Your story, the unique one that you hold and cherish, is enough.


How to Write a Memoir: 7 Ways to Tell a Powerful Story, Plus Examples


Memoir is not just a fancy literary term for an autobiography. I say that from the start, because I hear the terms used interchangeably so often. A memoir draws on selected anecdotes from your life to support a theme and make a point. For instance, if your point is how you came from some unlikely place to where you are now, you would choose scenes from your life to support that.

You might start with memories that show how bad things once were for you. Then you would show pivotal experiences in your life, important people in your transformation, what you learned, and how you applied certain principles to see this vast change.

Naturally, the better the stories, the better the memoir. Howevergreat stories are not the point — and frankly, neither is the memoirist you. But memoirs by nobodies succeed all the time — and for one reason: they resonate with readers because readers identify with truth. Truth, even hard, gritty, painful truth, bears transferrable principles.

Memoirs full of such relatable candor attract readers, and readers are what publishers want. An astute agent or acquisitions editor can predict how relatable a memoir will be and take a chance on one from an unpublished unknown. Agents and editors tell me they love to discover such gems — the same way they love discovering the next great novelist.

It may seem counterintuitive to think reader-first while writing in the first-person about yourself. Sorry, but nobody cares except those who already love you. Whether they admit it or not, readers care most about their own lives. The more of that you offer, how to write a good memoir essay, the more successful your book will be. Think transferable principles in a story well told.

All people, regardless of age, ethnicity, location, and social status, share certain felt needs: food, shelter, and love. They fear abandonment, loneliness, and the loss of loved ones. Regardless your theme, if it touches on any of those wants and fears, readers will identify. I can read the memoir of someone of my opposite gender, for whom English is not her first language, of a different race and religion, who lives halfway around the world from me — and if she tells the story of her love for her child or grandchild, it reaches my core.

Many writers tell me they fear their theme has been covered many times by many other memoirists. Write on! Trust your narrative to do the work of conveying your message. Let your experiences and how they impacted you make their own points, and trust the reader to get it. Beat him over the head with your theme and you run him off. You can avoid being preachy by using what I call the Come Alongside Method. Give him credit.

So feature anecdotes from your life that support your theme, regardless how painful it is to resurrect the memories. The more introspective and vulnerable you are, the more effective will be your memoir. My father was a drunk who abused my mother and me, how to write a good memoir essay.

I was scared to death every time I heard him come in late at night. As soon as I heard the gravel crunch beneath the tires and the car door open and shut, I dove under my bed. I could tell by his footsteps whether Dad was sober and how to write a good memoir essay or loaded and looking for a fight. I prayed God would magically make me big enough to jump between him and my mom, because she was always his first target….

Worry less about chronology than theme. Tell whatever anecdote fits your point for each chapter, regardless where they fall on the calendar.

Just make the details clear so the reader knows where you are in the story. You might begin with the most significant memory of your life, even from childhood. As in a novel, how the protagonist in this case, you grows is critical to a successful story, how to write a good memoir essay.

Your memoir should make clear the difference between who you are today and who you once were. What you learn along the way becomes your character arc. It should go without how to write a good memoir essay that you write a memoir in the first-person. Tell both your outer what happens and your inner its impact on you story. You might be able to structure your memoir the same way merely by how you choose to tell the story.

Take the reader with you to your lowest point, and show what you did to try to remedy things. If your experience happens to fit the rest of the structure, so much the better. Great novels carry a book-length setup that demands a payoff in the end, plus chapter-length setups and payoffs, and sometimes even the same within scenes. The more of these the better. The same is true for your memoir. Virtually anything that makes the reader stay with you to find out what happens is a setup that demands a payoff.

Even something as seemingly innocuous as your saying that you hoped high school would deliver you from the torment of junior high makes the reader want to find out if that proved true.

Avoid using narrative summary to give away too much information too early. To me, how to write a good memoir essay, that just took the air out of the tension balloon, and many readers would agree and see no reason to read on. Better to set them up for a payoff and let them wait. Not so long that you lose them to frustration, but long enough to build tension. Usually a person painted in a negative light—even if the story is true—would not sign a release allowing you to expose them publicly.

Changing names to protect the guilty is not enough. Too many people in your family and social orbit will know the person, making your writing legally actionable. Change the location. Change the year. Change their gender. You could even change the offense. If your own father verbally abused you so painfully when you were thirteen that you still suffer from the memory decades later, attribute it to a teacher and have it happen at an entirely different age.

Is that lying in a nonfiction book? Thoroughly immerse yourself this genre before attempting to write in it. I read nearly 50 memoirs before I wrote mine Writing for the Soul. Are you working on your memoir or planning to? Do you have any questions on how to write a memoir? Share with me in the comments below. Before you go, be sure to grab my FREE guide:.

Just tell me where to send it:. Share Pin Confused yet? Stay with me. Maybe you came from: The wrong side of the tracks A broken home Having been a victim of abuse Addiction An orphanage To a position of: Wealth Status Happiness Health Faith You might start with memories that show how bad things once were for you.

Want to save this guide to read, save, or print whenever you wish? Click here. What happened to me can also happen to you. Cosmic Commonalities All people, regardless of age, ethnicity, location, and social status, share certain felt needs: food, shelter, how to write a good memoir essay, and love.

Knowing or understanding or relating to nothing else about her, I understand love of family. Worried About Uniqueness? Step 2.

Step 3. Example: Telling My father was a drunk who abused my mother and me. Showing As soon as I heard the gravel crunch beneath the tires and the car door open and shut, I dove under my bed. Character Arc As in a novel, how the protagonist in this case, you grows is critical to a successful story. Point of View It should go without saying that you write a memoir in the first-person. Setups and Payoffs Great novels carry a book-length setup that demands a payoff in the end, plus chapter-length setups and payoffs, and sometimes even the same within scenes.

Step 4. If you tell the truth, are you how to write a good memoir essay to throw them under the bus? In some cases, yes. But should you? But even if they did, would it be the right, ethical, kind thing to do? So, What to Do? So change more than the name. Common Memoir Mistakes to Avoid Making it too much like an autobiography missing a theme Including minutiae Bragging Glossing over the truth Preaching Effecting the wrong tone : funny, how to write a good memoir essay, condescending How to Start Your Memoir Your goal is to hook your reader, so begin in medias res —in the middle of things.

 

How to Write a Memoir Essay | Synonym

 

how to write a good memoir essay

 

Apr 20,  · A successful memoir essay might be written about the two years you spent just out of high school working in a small town five-and-dime (back when every small town had a five-and-dime), or it could relate the story of your successful two-year battle with cancer at age forty. How to Write a Memoir in 4 Steps 1. Know Your Theme. And remember, it’s not that you’ve made something of yourself — 2. Carefully Select Your Anecdotes. The best memoirs let readers see themselves in your story so 3. Write It Like a Novel. It’s as important in a memoir . Oct 14,  · If all that sounds essential to your memoir-writing process, it’s because it is. So let’s take a look at exactly how to build your arc, starting with the key elements: the desire line, actions and obstacles, emotional beats, the initiating incident and, of course, the ending.