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Many writers, when asked how they intend to structure a memoir they are about to write, react as if they have just been asked how they will create a structure to a skyscraper. To structure a memoir is an important undertaking, but it is not as complicated as creating structure that will support a tall building.

Unlike a building or a bridge, a memoir is not solid and subject to physical imperatives like gravity. While memoir must take many rules into account – respect verisimilitude, enact plotting, round out characterization, tell the truth – these are often manipulable in the way that gravity just simply is not.

To say “structure a memoir” is  perhaps a misnomer.

In a way, the phrase “structure a memoir” is a misnomer, but we do need words to describe what we do. Literature is notoriously plagiaristic when it comes to describing itself. For instance,

  • We take from music the word voice and tone.
  • We take from dance the word pace and movement.

Why not take the word structure from engineering?

In this category, we look at different “structural” components of a memoir. These components are essentially elements that will make your memoir both more interesting and meaningful.

Let’s look at what you can do to contribute to your structure.

  • Where does your story begin? Think of the beginning, the entry into your story, as a necessary first element. You need to begin your story at the point where the action begins to unfold. A story about a divorce and the reconstruction of a life does not begin with the first date in high school. It might begin with the first time you realized that this marriage could not continue.
  • How do you include back story? It will probably be necessary at some point to mention something about your first date, but when should you do it? This back story will be a flashback. Ought it to go early in your story or ought it to wait/ This too will contribute to how to structure a memoir.
  • How do you pace your story? Certainly don’t want to give the ending away, but on the other hand, you have to let the reader know that the story is moving along. This is what we call pacing, and it can—and frequently should—include such fictional elements as foreshadowing and suspense.
  • Have you been complete and concise? This is so important in what we call structuring. You must include all the information that needs to be included to understand what is going on, but you must take out everything that is superfluous. In this sense, we we say that your structure is lean.

An outline is not necessary to structure a memoir well.

Some writers feel they have to outline a story and consider the outline to be a structure. While we are not against outlines absolutely, we do recognize them as being inhibiting of the free flow of a story that best accesses some of the deeper layers of storytelling.

In conclusion

The the posts below will help you understand this concept better.

writing

Show Up and Do the Writing!

To your dismay, you have been writing your memoir in snippets. In the mornings, when you show up on your laptop, you face, as does every writer, a demanding master: a writing stint for the day.

Oh, how you wish it were the end of your scheduled writing period!

Like many memoir writers, your memoir writing time is perhaps not long. Then you need to move on to the numerous chores that are attendant on keeping a life and a home going. You feel some urgency to write deathless prose because of the short time allotted.

But some days, even your short writing period seems too long. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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audience in mind

Should You Write With An Audience in Mind?

While some people decide to write a memoir according to structure—healing memoirs, investigative memoirs, etc—as I wrote in a previous post, others write with an audience in mind. (Writing with structure in mind often calls for writing with an audience in mind, also.) Sometimes the audience is of specific people but many other writers, while they do have a specific audience in mind, are really writing to a group according to their interest.

“I want to write for my kids and grandchildren. I want them to know who I was,” one sort of memoirist will realize. While another will think, “I want to my children and grandchildren to know me, too, and I want to place my life in a greater context. I’m hoping to have readers beyond my kin, readers who are interested in a larger picture of what life was.” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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after a book is published

How to Organize Your Memoir: Four Ways

Eventually, after you have written awhile, you will likely have amassed a number of vignettes, story segments, and stories and wonder about how to best organize them into a coherent and interesting memoir. You will likely want to make a statement, o create a bigger picture of your story.

How will you do it? Well, one answer is that you will do it by how you organize your story. Below are four ideas to organize your memoir.

Remember: These suggestions do not refer to the sequence in which the stories are written but rather to how they can be ordered after they have been written.

Here are four ways you can organize your memoir.

1) Chronology

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teach memoir writing Memoir Professional Package

How Many Memoir Types Are There?

There used to be one and not several memoir types.

The one kind of memoir genre was that written by famous people about the important events in history that they had taken  part in. Mostly, these accounts were about how wonderful they were and how important their roles in history had been. Oftentimes, these memoirs were about excoriating their political or business rivals and actually provided little emotional or psychological insight into the protagonist other than s/he was a “good guy.”

More

Today, we have more kinds of memoir types—or genres—than we could have imagined even only several generations ago. The Memoir Writer’s Blog has a whole category devoted to types of memoir,
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