Memoir How To - Learning to Write Memoir
Yes, you can write a memoir!
Learning how to start a memoir and some of the writing elements that should be included is the goal of this memoir how to. You need the tools to be successful.
Understanding a few things like -- what is memoir, story arc, themes and how to start is necessary to set yourself up for the best possible chance of completing the project.
Let's get to learning -- together!
Story Arc, Plot, Desire Line -- Oh My!
Memoir How To
Remember high school English class -- themes and research papers? Well, forget them (and the grades you got on them)! They were more in the journalistic style of writing -- reporting facts and quoting other people's work.
Your memoir is about you and you are the only expert on that topic.
The good thing about the memoir genre is it doesn't cover your entire (and, let's face it, sometimes boring) life. You are the editor. You get to choose the time period, event or relationship you will write about. You get to leave out the ho-hum, boring spots. You focus your lens on just one portion, leaving everything else fuzzy and in the background.
Whether you are 20, 40, 60 or 80, there are interesting stories from your life you can share.
Excellent Text for Learning the Craft of Memoir Writing - It's my Bible!
Tristine Rainer is an excellent teacher and author. You learn so much from reading this book through the first time. But, the bonus is going back for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th reading. I learn new things each time I read it.
From teaching the basics of what is needed to tell a story, to finding out what kind of story you want to tell, to writing it. This is an all around tool for anyone writing or contemplating writing a memoir.
When you attend parties, reunions or get togethers, the main entertainment is storytelling. People move from group to group sharing funny, sad, happy and unique experiences with each other. Verbal storytelling has become an artform.
Writing memoir is about taking one of those stories and writing it from beginning to middle to end. You will write with more detail and specifics than a cocktail party audience will allow. All the facts and truths are included but it shouldn't read like a police report -- more like a work of fiction or a play.
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Story Arc -- What is it?
Some like to outline first (me), others prefer to let the story flow as you think of it. Neither way is right or wrong. Just do what feels right to you, just get it on the pages.
Whether you outline first or write first, to truly be labeled as a story, you need to include the basic elements of a story. Most great stories, from fairy tales to sci-fi to memoir, follow the chart above. Let's take a closer look...
- Inciting Incident -- Something has to happen. It's not a story if it is same old, same old, day after day. That's just the facts and would be a boring read.
An inciting incident changes the status quo for the protagonist (you in memoir). It's about change in circumstance, mentally or physically. It launches the story and gives the readers a glimpse of what the memoir is about -- it makes the story take off. Everything that comes prior is just set up.
The inciting incident usually comes close to the beginning of a story. It's not a story in the traditional sense without one. What comes after the inciting incident is the struggle to right yourself, create a balance that the incident put off balance.
- Desire Line -- The inciting incident triggers a decision of action or inaction from the protagonist (you). You now have a Desire Line -- something, someone, mental or physical that you want or need to accomplish. The middle of the memoir is about how you go about trying to obtain that desire, right the wrong or regain the balance shown in the set up or exposition at the beginning.
- Problems and Obstacles -- This is the meat of the story. This is where you run into people and things that stand between you and your desire line. Some problems will be small, others will be huge obstacles.
- Crisis Point or Climax -- The Crisis Point is reached at the end of the middle or the end of the second act. This is where the protagonist realizes the situation calls for a final decision to be made and leads readers into the 3rd act .
- Climax -- The 3rd act contains the climax -- the point in which the decisive event occurs. A decision is made and followed through.
- Resolution or Revelation -- After the climax, the resolution or revelation is when the desire line the protagonist has been working towards is achieved or not. In memoir especially, the desire line can change throughout the story while stumbling through the obstacles. Sometimes the resolution is emotional as in realizing you didn't really want what you thought you wanted. Other times it can be physical -- achieving a goal.
Which do You Prefer - When Writing a Story?
Do you outline or just free write when writing a story? (feel free to comment after you vote)
Fiction Writing Techniques that Help with Memoir Writing - Yes... they can make your story come to life for a reader
Writing a compelling memoir with the possibility of mainstream publishing means you need to learn fiction writing tips and techniques to incorporate in your story.
All of these books are great and are in my personal library. I refer to them often. They inspire and help you to create the best story you can!
Memoir How To - Beginning, Middle and End
Again, a traditional story, one that readers can follow along, has a Beginning (Act I), Middle (Act II) and an End (Act III).
The chart above outlines each phase of the story and lists at the bottom what should be included in that portion or phase.
Yes, you can write a memoir!
Quick, a little over a minute, tips about writing your memoir from writing instructor Laura Minnegerode.
Online Resources for Writing Memoir
- Memoir Writing Resources | Life Story Writing
Some resources for aspiring memoir writers. More to come...
- Memoir How To | Story Elements
This memoir how to will break down story elements that should be included in your writing. Memoir examples and story suggestions will help get you started as a memoirist.
- Memoir How To | Fiction Writing Tips
This memoir how to explains using the fiction writing tip of "Showing" to engage your reader. Facts are necessary in memoir but the packaging decides if it is worth reading.
- 10 Tips for Writing a Memoir
Are you writing a memoir or considering writing a memoir? The hardest part is getting started. The 10 tips below is designed to give you assistance and encouragement as you start down the path to writing life story -- memoir.
Need a Jump Start? - Try One of These!
A blank piece of paper can be intimidating. A journal can make a difference for some people. These journals have questions and statements meant to draw out your stories. You can go back later and see if there is a pattern or theme you want to write about exclusively but they will get you on the road to writing -- everyday!
They are also great gifts to pass down in your family. Don't be forgotten!
Are you a grandparent? You must of tons of stories about growing up you can share with your grandchildren. They will cherish this journal even if you never write another thing.
This one is written more for yourself. You learn to trigger memories and experiences and write them down for posterity.
Another journal about yourself. This one gets you rolling with questions and family history so you can pass it down through the family.
All mother's have so much they wish to share with their kids. Write it down! It doesn't matter if your kids are newborn, in high school or living on their own -- share your thoughts and wisdom in this journal.
You Have to Start!
The most important thing about writing memoir is writing! You have to start. You can always go back and re-write (and you will) to include the elements above.
However, if you never start, you will have no story.
Blogs About Memoir Writing - Memoir Examples and Resources
- Memoir, Writing & Life
On this blog I share my quest and experience writing, teaching and publishing creative nonfiction, particularly memoir and personal essay, including occasional musings on books, poetry, and life as a writer.
- Memories and Memoirs by Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D. -
On my book tours and in workshops, I enjoy meeting people who are passionate about capturing the stories of their lives. Writing a memoir is an act of faith and learning. Writers who tell a personal story feel exposed and vulnerable, but in the rich
- Life Story Writing
A blog dedicated to learning to write your memoirs. Follow along with me as I peruse the world of writing memoir, sprinkle in some stories and have fun with life in general!
- A Way With Words Writing
Encouraging and equipping those who love to write. Rescuing those who don't.
What about you?
Have you ever written a story from your life?
Memoir Writing Resources
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Squidoo is a FREE format that offers you the opportunity to write about your favorite niche topic and make an income or donate to charity at the same time! What could be better?
Click the Squid for more information...
Memoir How To
We don't have to be taught to live but writing about our lives takes a bit of practice. I hope you learned something new from this memoir how to!