Memoirs: The Basics - article

Memoirs are stories centered on personal life stories. This kind of story is tied closely to memories. It’s not descriptive like an autobiography. It’s also not a family history that offers a chronological view of your whole life and the lives of your friends and family, but instead a memoir is a narrative of a particular episode or facet of a person’s life. This narrative is colored with the writer’s feelings and mind-set. For example, if the writer wants to focus on his relationship with his father, the memoir would focus on seminal events in that relationship with little mention of other events in the author’s life. The author would explore fully the emotional context of that relationship and nothing more. Memoir is a focused personal story.

Memoirs are written like novels but they are not fiction. Just like novels, they have dialogue, plot, characters, imagery, and themes. This writing form offers flexibility in terms of POV. No particular one is required. You can choose first, second or third person narrative. Great memoirs are about clarity and truth. You can write a tragedy or a comedy, exploring the negative or positive aspects of your life. In your memoir, you will disclose your innermost thoughts and beliefs. Your flaws will be exposed for all to see. The authenticity of your memoir depends on your ability to be truthful and honestly reveal your life and times.

"Others write memoir in a search for meaning. Untangling the past can also give you a clearer vision of today and this sense of clarity is the goal of many authors."

You might be wondering why you should reduce your history to novel form. Some think of memoir writing as therapy. It’s an opportunity to explore difficult times and people. Others write memoir in a search for meaning. Untangling the past can also give you a clearer vision of today and this sense of clarity is the goal of many authors. Some write memoirs to form connections with readers, often family members and their extended social network; they write to leave a legacy. For all, memoir writing is a challenge of the thoroughly human activity of storytelling, the art of revealing who you are and how you got there. Take time to decide why you want to write a memoir.

One of the most important parts of memoir is the personal perspective of the writer. You must present your version of the truth and put aside the thoughts and opinions of others. It doesn’t matter what they think, what is important is what you believe is true, what you know is right or wrong. Here’s a last thought. Memoir authorship requires a writer to say what she has never said, a scary but liberating experience. In the end, the important thing to do is to write so that readers can connect with your inner universe of thoughts and feelings in the context of your own life. If you want to try this, gear yourself up to dig deep. Skimming the surface doesn’t work with memoir.

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