One event is in the recent past while one event is in the very distant past. Yet both events have a very strong, and possibly traumatic, effect on the writers. What was motivating the narrator to share this particular story with the reader? Often, memoirs can be cathartic for the writer. Perhaps the writer was trying to process a year of grieving and loss, as Didion does in The Year of Magical Thinking , or perhaps the writer was trying to describe a childhood in a concentration camp, as Spiegelman does in his memoir Maus.
Consider the motivations of the writer for putting down their story and presenting it to readers. How did the memoir keep the reader engaged and interested in the story? The best memoirs are honest and unflinching, with details or admissions that the writer may be afraid to make.
The writer may write in a way that feels truthful, full of moments that may not make the writer look good or conflicted. But readers often respond to vulnerability in a memoir, and a writer who is not afraid to describe their failures along with their successes. Were you satisfied with the ending of the memoir? Why or why not? Unlike an autobiography, a memoir does not need to have a linear beginning, middle, and end.
Most memoirs end without any firm conclusions or end of life moments. In your memoir, your narrator is you. Your want will drive the food forward and make your story worth reading. Think about your desire line, or what motivates your narrator to tell her story. Your narrator will then struggle to achieve her desire line through telling her story and reaching a realization about a pivotal moment in her story. Or, I wanted to become healthier after a brief brush with death. Be specific in your desire line and avoid vague statements.
Your desire line may change as you write your memoir. But its good to have a clear desire in mind before you start writing. Determine the key actions and obstacles in your story. Once you have a sense of what desire or want you want to explore in your memoir, you can identify the actions and obstacles your narrator must overcome to achieve the desire line. Obstacles or challenges will give the story stakes and motivate your reader to keep turning the pages of your memoir. To get my desire line, I did this action.
But then an obstacle got in my way. So, I did this action to overcome this obstacle. So I went on a trip to Poland to better understand my mother and her family. Outline the inciting incident and the ending incident. Often, writers have a difficult time to determining how to start a story. A memoir can be even more challenging as you might feel you have so many details and scenes you could start with or that feel important.
One way to start is to identify the inciting incident in your story and the ending incident. You will need to dramatize your inciting incident and your ending incident in your book. It could be a seemingly small moment, such as a brief fight with your mother, that becomes a major moment or inciting incident in your story. For example, your brief fight with your mother could be the last time you speak to her before she passes away and leaves you letters about her life in Poland.
Think of the ah ha moment in your story when you realized what you wanted in your life, or where you realized you were wrong about your assumptions about a specific moment or event. The ending incident is the moment when you achieve your desire line or want. It will also help you develop an ending for your book. Create a plot outline. Though you are writing a memoir, following the principles of fiction, such as a plot outline, can help give your book form and shape.
It can also make it easier for you to organize your research materials in a way that is engaging and interesting for your reader. For there to be a story, something has to move or change. Something or someone goes from point A to point B due to a physical event, a decision, a change in a relationship, or a change in a character or person.
Your plot outline should include: The plot of any story is a sequence of events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. The story goal is what your narrator wants to achieve or the problem she wants to resolve, or her desire line. Ask yourself, What disaster will happen if the goal is not achieved? The consequence is the negative situation or event that will result if the goal is not achieved. The combination of goal and consequence creates the main dramatic tension in your plot.
These are what must be accomplished to achieve the goal. Think of it as a checklist of one or more events. As the requirements are met in the course of the novel, the reader will feel the narrator is getting closer to attaining the goal. Depending on your story, you may feel you need to do in-depth research on a certain subject, like air force pilots in WWII or life in a refugee camp in Poland. However, resist doing too much research before you start your first draft. You may get overwhelmed by the amount of information you come across during your research and start to forget your personal take on the facts.
Remember that your memoir should focus on your memory of the event, rather than be purely factual or completely accurate. This means individuals who can share first person accounts of an event. You will then need to follow up on leads, interview people, transcribe interviews, and read a lot of material. Make a writing schedule. This will help you determine how long it is going to take you to write a draft of the book. If you are working under a deadline, you may make your schedule more tight than if you have the luxury of more time to write.
So, if you normally write about words an hour, factor this in on your schedule. Or if you feel you may actually write two pages an hour, use this as an estimate in your schedule.
Determine how long it will take you on average to compose a set number of words, or number of pages, per a day. If you are working towards a final word count goal, like 50, words or pages, focus on how many hours per a week it will take you to reach this goal. Write a rough first draft. You may feel pressure to write and rewrite every sentence you put down.
But part of writing a memoir is writing an honest account of a pivotal event, in your own words and with your own style. Include slang and any regional vernacular. Make your story sound like it is coming directly from you. But let yourself explore scenes in your rough draft. Instead, use your memory to create moments that feel true to you. Avoid the passive voice.
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