Telling Your Story is Good for the Soul
There’s something very satisfying about reflecting on your life and putting your story down on paper. The process of thinking back in time and bringing forward important moments to share with others can be a deeply personal, even cathartic process. It can also be intimidating! Where to start? What to say? Will anyone want to read it?
“Memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying, ‘This is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it,’” says one bestselling author. Her memoir was based on tremendously personal stories about her troubled family life. Thankfully, not everyone has to live through a difficult upbringing or traumatic adolescence. In fact, many memoirs are positive, uplifting and inspirational. Each of us has experienced important life moments, and those moments are what make us who we are. Those are moments you can focus on when thinking about the story you want to tell.
A Memoir is Different from an Autobiography
Providing every detail of your life would be overwhelming to write, difficult to read, and probably not particularly captivating. Focusing on a pivotal moment or particular time and place allows you to provide more detail and richness. Truman Capote’s short story, “A Christmas Memory,” is a good example of this type of remembrance. Your memoir could center on a personal accomplishment, including its run-up and aftermath. You could write about a particularly happy time, a turning point, or an extraordinary event. Anything in your past that triggers strong emotions should be considered as a focus of your memoir.
The Best Memoirs Have a Central Theme
Choosing the theme of your story can be difficult, especially If you have varied interests and experiences. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed traveling and have some wonderful stories to tell about a particular city or country. If you’re an avid angler, there’s probably a great fish story that needs to be told. Maybe you have wisdom to share about your profession or an enlightening volunteer experience. Nothing is off-limits when it comes to a memoir. Seemingly small moments can come roaring to life when recounted with detail and emotion.
Help the Reader See What You Saw, Feel What You Felt
The more descriptive you can be when telling your story, the better. For example, if writing about travel, choose language that describes how the place you visited looked, sounded and smelled. Share how the food you enjoyed tasted, or about an unusual dish that you’d not care to have again! Write down as many details as you can – the season, the time of day, the weather, the political climate – whatever will be useful to flesh out your experience and put the reader in your shoes.
Use Storytelling Tools from Your Favorite Fiction Novels
When recalling moments from your personal history, think about how they might play out in a work of fiction. Use dialogue to detail how you spoke to someone and how they replied. Describe any action that takes place in the scene you have in your mind’s eye. Experienced writers refer to this as “show, don’t tell.” Descriptions and dialogue help bring your story to life.
Write Every Day
Commit to a pre-determined number of words or period of time that you will devote to your writing every day. Experienced writers and published authors spend hours polishing, honing, revising and improving their drafts. The more time you spend writing, the easier it becomes. When reviewing your words, you’ll likely think of even more details to add and improvements you can make to tell your story more clearly and with greater depth.
You’ll find expert guidance online to get started with your memoir that goes far beyond the simple points mentioned here. Remember that everyone has a story to tell. Taking the time to reflect on and recount your most important life moments for your family and friends to enjoy is a gift only you can give.