You can avoid cliches and stereotypes. If you do not avoid cliches and stereotypes, you will undermine the unique and personal feel of your memoir. Cliches and stereotypes place people in often erroneous and certainly indefensible categories.
Everyone should work on improving your writing. Find tips and theories about improving your craft.
Many memoir writers are under the impression that you need to have an extensive vocabulary to write. An extensive vocabulary can only help you–if by “extensive” you mean many precise words, not just big ones.
Action in a memoir is essential—even if internalized!
Action in a memoir usually happens in the usual place—outside the memoir narrator. That is easy to grasp: “The boy ran by.”
When you use flashback scenes in which you remember someone and what they did way back then—these are not interiorized actions, these are memories of actual actions.
What can be less easy to grasp is that action in a memoir can be internal to the character, happening in the character’s mind.
Facts, such as dates, addresses, names, and relationships are a basis of memoir writing.
Memoir writing cannot, without deleting from its value, stray from the importance of facts: dates and specific identification of locales, names of individuals and their relationships to one another.
Action in Writing Is Essential
In writing a life story, it is important to pay attention to three aspects: action, character, and setting. These will enhance your story every time. To neglect these elements is to risk having your story fall flat. In this article, we will concentrate on action.
When you use action in writing your story, it is called plot. Something must happen in your story to retain the interest of your reader.
Listen to how a child tells a story. It is all action. Nuances of character and setting are immaterial to the child. It’s what happens that counts. Our reliance on action, on plot, doesn’t wane as we grow older, but our ways of using action in writing grow more sophisticated.
A prime task: establish your setting
Every story needs a believable setting. When you establish your setting, you will both put your characters in their context and make them seem real.
The setting is both where and when your story occurs. The where is the place in which the story occurs. It includes interiors and exteriors of buildings, the landscape, and the political demarcations (town, county, country, etc.). The when includes the calendar time as well as the history of the characters and of their community (family, group, nation, etc.). You best establish your setting—as when you create character—when you make use of ample sense-oriented details.
The people in your story are your characters. It is your job to bring vivid literary characters to the attention of your readers. You must use descriptive writing to present believable characters. Without other people, our lives and memoirs risk becoming dull. Although ideas are pivotal for many individuals, relationships are even more commanding. We are intrigued with who other people are and how they function. “Who’s that? What are they doing? Where did they come from?” These are question we want answered. To write a strong story, capitalize on this interest.
[blockquote class="topquote" author="Robert Frost, poet"]Each poem clarifies something. But then you’ve got to do it again. You can’t get ‘clarified’ to stay so: let you not think that. In a way, it’s like nothing more than blowing smoke rings. Making little poems encourages a man to see that there is shapeliness in the world. A poem is an arrest of disorder.[/blockquote]
When I read the quote above, I did not have to make much of a leap to sense that the words “An arrest of disorder” apply to the task you and I undertake when we write memoir. More than anything perhaps, we want an arrest of disorder. Disorder seems to be everywhere in life. And so, we take our raw material—the events of our lives and of the lives of the people who surround us—and endeavor to make meaning of it all. In short, we take up our mishmash of events, our disorder of memories, and attempt to make order—or, at the least, to create an arrest of disorder.
Basic units of memoir writing: Vignettes, scenes, and dialogues are at the core of any memoir. Here are some ideas for writing them more quickly and elegantly.
The Memory List will suggest topics to write about, but what follows is additional tips you can use when you don’t have the photos.