Writing your memoirs is first and foremost about you – your journey toward something, whether it is self-awareness, success, stability, love, or some other intangible. Often memoirs are more focused than autobiographies because they tell the story of a particular phase of your life or specific challenge you faced. While some memoirs are free-form collections of stories, others are anecdotes strung together to illustrate a central theme in your life. The main point in a focused memoir is usually something the writer has overcome in some way. Figuring out whether the challenge you want to write about is a person, place, or thing can improve your story’s structure and give you a better grasp on what is essential to your memoirs and what can be left out.
The Person Who Influenced You: Introduce Them in Your Memoir
Memoirs sometimes focus on the one person in a writer’s life who has dramatically impacted choices made and paths taken. If you find yourself returning again and again to tales about ways in which a favorite teacher, a mentor, or a family member has been integral to your story, the focus of your memoir may be this individual. If so, flesh out the character, include a bit of background on what made them such an essential part of your life.
The person who most influenced you could also be someone who had a negative impact that shaped your life. Did someone abuse you? Did you view the actions of someone close to you as a cautionary tale about how NOT to live your own life? Perhaps your memoirs will be about how you overcome this person’s negative influence. Remember, though, to respect that person’s right to privacy.
The Place That Made an Impression
There may be many people who have impacted your life in various ways, with no one individual who stands out. For some people, a place changes their lives in profound ways. If going to college in a particular area or working for a specific company altered the way you live your life, make that place part of your memoirs, acknowledging the impact it has on how you live life today. Did attending a liberal arts university introduce you to cultures you’d never encountered? Was working in a factory your introduction to a toxic work culture? Use anecdotes from these places that collectively provide a story arc for your memoirs.
Making Your Memoir About The Thing That Changed Your Life
I’m using the term “thing” loosely here. Perhaps the thing was an event, such as when someone you loved passed away or you lost the perfect job. Maybe it is a literal “thing,” such as the first house you bought or the church that cemented your faith. When you were a child, did you have a particular toy or talisman that gave you the comfort or courage you needed? Don’t overlook the power objects or institutions have had on your life. Others may connect to this because they’ve also found solace or support from a particular item. Be sure your memoir illustrates how your life was changed by the thing you’re writing about.
A memoir records the complexities of your life and how it has evolved. By focusing on a person, place, or thing as a central theme, you establish a pivotal influence in your life. Readers will have the pleasure of experiencing and understanding the importance one thing can have in a person’s life and take that with them into their own lives.
Dudley Court Press
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