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November 16 Activity: The Bigger Picture in A Memoir

November 16 Activity: Writing in the bigger picture in a memoir

Many writers write their memoirs as if all there is in life is their own experience and perhaps the experience of immediate family. But, every life is lived within some context that is much larger than the individual and the family unit. We all live within some historical context.

Today, you will look at the bigger picture that ought to be included in your memoir.

Read a history—whether a book or an article in a magazine or on the Web—of your region, of your ethnic group, of your religious group, of your city. This will provide context to better understand the period of your life you are writing about and to create the bigger picture in a memoir.

An example of useful research could be an industrial history of your region that might explain shifts in the economy that your family experienced. It would explain that Dad was not out of work because of poor job performance or lack of good work habits but because an entire industry had left town.

Action steps

1. As you read the history you selected, jot down details you can write later into your memoir.

2. Write something that incorporates this new-found data from your research or is inspired by the use of data that you are drawing from your memory list.

The exercise will broaden your story from a purely personal account into a story  that is larger. You can write the bigger picture in a memoir!

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