Interviewing family members and friends is clearly a form of research, but interviews alone are usually not enough to give your stories the depth they require. For that, you need formal research.
What are you going to write about? Before you can start to write a memoir you must do some gathering of information.
Some of that information you already know and you have to look inward to connect with it again. This info can be collated with that greatest of memoir-writing tools, the Memory List.
Other info is beyond recollection and memory. You have to do some research to gather this material. It is cultural and political and historical information that is beyond recall but which is very important in creating context for a memoir. This context is your setting.
By clicking on the links below, you will learn what you need to write a more meaningful memoir, where to go to find it and how to collect it and use it.
Can you assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories? The problem with this assumption is that memory isn’t always as reliable as you may want it to be! What are the best interview practices to find out if your memory is spot on?
People who are writing a memoir will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back? Should I use writing prompts?”
There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of life writing successful. That tool is not a writing prompt: it is the Memory List. No other exercise opens up the process of life writing as quickly and as surely as the thoughtful and thorough compilation of such a list. It’s simple, and as a first step, it’s crucial.
Let me tell you about the Memory List (a general term for your list of memories).
Gathering stories at family events—interviewing—is one of these basic steps you can master for writing your memoir. Following these basic steps, anyone can succeed at writing interesting and meaningful memoirs.
As a memoirist, you must always double check the information you already have, and seek new material to flesh out your stories. Reunions, weddings, funerals, birthday and holiday celebrations rate well on both of these tasks: scattered relatives, each of whom has a piece of the family history to share, are in one place at one time. Gathering stories at family events is an opportunity not to be missed. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
There is a rich lode of stories that you can tap into quickly both for their historical content and for what they tell you about how members of your family wanted their young to be. These are “family stories.” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
When starting on a memoir, it can be difficult to remember all the stories and memories you would like to include. You naturally want to jog your memory.
When you are intent on writing “from the inside out” as we at The Memoir Network hope you will, there are some useful techniques you can use—to add to compiling your Memory List and perhaps even to stimulate it.
[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Questions On Memoir Writing
The following interview with me appeared in the Nov. 19, 2010, Oral History Education blog, and was later published in 2013. Over the years, these questions on memoir writing still rank as some of the most common questions I receive, and I have to say, the answers haven’t changed either–enjoy!
1. How did you get started in your profession of memoir writing?
I started writing autobiography-based fiction. Some of these have won literary awards, and, while I like that, I feel the most satisfaction from helping readers who are stimulated to tell their own stories after reading my work. This happened in 1988 when my first collection of short fiction, What Became of Them, came out.
After I had read for a group of senior citizens, I was overwhelmed by their eagerness to share their stories with me and each other. That’s how I began helping people to write their memoirs.
Memoir interviewing is an integral piece of research. Although you may assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories—memory isn’t always as reliable as you want it to be. Interviews with relevant family members and friends can supplement your memory and broaden the perspective of your memoir. How To Prepare For […]
I’ve been thinking again of looking for the right details to enhance your memoir. Of course, details are crucial in the what of a memoir as well as in the who, the where, and the when. They are the facts of your memoir, but there is an expanded role for details in memoir writing. Here […]
The importance of facts in memoir writing The importance of facts in memoir writing such as dates, addresses, names, and relationships, are one of its special feature. Memoir writing cannot, without deleting from its value, omit dates and specific identification of locales, names of individuals and their relationships to one another. Memoir writing is factual writing: […]