Writing Memoir

A memoir is not the story of your life; it is a story from your life. Taken from the French word memoire, it literally means memory. It is a retelling of moments or snapshots of life, written in rich detail but without exaggeration or embellishment. A memoir can be a single story, or a collection of events/stories that are connected by a single theme.

Writing memoir is a great way to pass down family history. It gives future generations an opportunity to understand what the world was like during your lifetime, as well as give them a chance to get to know you.

Some themes you might consider are:

Gratitude
Traditions
Faith
Loss
Forgiveness
Growing up
Lessons learned the hard way

Add more as they occur to you. One approach to get started is to free-write, jotting down thoughts and memories you associate with the themes. This will often produce several memories that you can expand into a story or stories.

Remember to paint your scene using vivid details involving the five senses, so that your reader feels present in your memory. Use creative writing techniques to breathe life into your story, but stick to the facts.

In a memoir, it is important to allow yourself to be real. If your goal is to share a lesson learned, it’s important to make your readers connect with you. Admit your mistakes and weaknesses, not just celebrate your successes. Life isn’t all black or white. Allow the colors and nuances to be seen in your story to give your reader an authentic experience.

Kim Vernon
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