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This blog post was written and published by our Summer 2017 Intern, Mallory Corbin, a student at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
With memoir emerging as one of the leading literary genres of today, it’s no wonder that authors all over are scrambling to get theirs written in hopes that they will become the next big name in the memoir world. One thing that makes memoirs so appealing is that they are all totally new stories, stories that have never been told before, because they are about you. While some may share similar themes, each has its own air of originality that can’t be beat. Writing a memoir can be beneficial to oneself, as well as a community that may develop as your memoir grows in popularity. Memoirs tell individualized stories that can make us laugh, cry, think, and teach us valuable lessons.
5 Tips for Writing Yours:
- Make it true. Make it you. What makes a memoir a memoir is their honest and personal nature. It is important to stay as truthful as possible with your readers so as to create an authentic experience. Many may feel they need to have an exciting, dramatic, and action packed life in order to write a memoir. This isn’t the case. In fact, it is ordinary people who write some of the greatest memoirs, because they are so very relatable. Remember, this is your memoir, you should be writing it for you! Don’t try to impress anyone, be honest and you may be shocked at just how intriguing your story really is.
Focus in. You don’t want to be too broad. Focusing in on a particular moment in your life is extraordinarily important to a memoir. It is literally what makes it a memoir, and not an autobiography. This focus is a huge part of why memoir is so loved. Rather than just spewing a bunch of facts about your life to your audience, you are delicately relaying intimate and specific details about stories that hold some kind of importance to you.
Fictionalize. What!? But you just said you should make it true! Yes, I realize I’m contradicting myself (which is a big no, no in a memoir, by the way). But let’s face it, unless you have a photographic memory, you won’t remember every single detail about your life. This can be a real issue when you’re trying to descriptively and authentically retell a story. You are welcome to use fiction to carefully recreate moments in your life to assist your reader’s imagination. This may include mention of a blue pair of shoes you think you may have owned, a feeling that you don’t necessarily remember but are sure you could have felt, or a conversation that you can’t quite remember word for word. Fictionalizing brings to light the details that may have been lost over the years.
Know your sub-genre. Memoir is a very broad genre with a wide spectrum of sub-genres. You will need to decide what kind of memoir you want to write. Consider your story. Is it funny? Sad? Inspiring? This will determine exactly where your memoir will lie. Honesty is once again very important here, as you don’t want to try to write a comedy when your story is not funny. You also don’t want to try to write a drama if your story is not dramatic, no one wants to read about inauthentic melodrama.
Keep a journal. As I said before, remembering every detail about your life can be hard, if not impossible. If you keep a journal, or even just a note in your phone, you can scribble down small details that you may remember at random times throughout your day. In this journal you can also write down new stories that you are experiencing now that you may want to write about later. Even if you aren’t writing a memoir, keeping a journal can be a very valuable thing!
These 5 tips should help keep you going in the WRITE direction as you write the right kind of memoir for you!