Writing a memoir is like making a movie, and in many ways, a good memoir writer treats the story the way a filmmaker treats a movie. Too often, as we write memoir, we tell the reader what is happening in the story rather than show it. Fortunately, a filmmaker does not have this luxury—or is it curse?—of telling. The only way the filmmaker can let us know what is happening is to show something on the screen—whether that is a setting, an action or a feature of characterization such as a frown. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Our memoir writing exercises are different from those found on other sites. We do not like to provide ready-made prompts. Instead we advocate writing exercises that are likely to lead to a deepening of your insight rather than to a titillation for your entertainment — which is what we think of most writing exercises.
Read the posts below to see for yourself how what we suggest is better than any writing prompt that asks you to write about something like “It’s the year 2500 and you are…”
Write about a conflict in your memoir to engage your reader. There needs to be action in your story. There needs to be something happening. One way to explore plot is to explore 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. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Writing plot into a memoir is something people are sometimes surprised to learn that a memoir needs. For some writers, this technique of writing plot into a memoir screams of twisting the memoir into a fiction piece. But, all of us need to be kept reading by some mechanism. This mechanism is often called plot. A plot is an action. Plot is the something that happens in a memoir. Today, we explore how to create a plot that is true to the memoir. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Are You Holding Back the Hard Truth in Your Memoir?
Your memoir needs the hard truth about life—your life—and sometimes that requires exposing yourself, getting “naked.”
I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend and come out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition and if we are to accept ourselves in all the complexity, self-doubt…. we have to know all we can about each other and we have to be willing to go naked.—Mary Sarton
Wow, going around naked! Gulp! (Better hit the gym!)
But, I guess you get the idea—psychologically and emotionally naked. Your memoir needs truth telling about life—yours—and sometimes that requires exposing yourself, getting “naked.”
I would like to change the metaphor a bit, to use a metaphor that is less startling but very graphic nonetheless. It is the metaphor of the kernels at the bottom of the popcorn bowl.
I love popcorn and enjoy eating it but there always comes a moment when I get to the bottom of the bowl and the plethora of corn kernels that have been popped into delightful puffy bites gives way to the hard half-popped or not-popped-at-all kernels. These are not fun to eat. Disappointed, I walk to the trash and throw the kernels away. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Is there a problem with writing prompts? This is my issue with writing prompts: they tend to lead to isolated stories, stories that are searching for humor, searching to be shared with a group that is perhaps looking for entertainment. They are not, by and large, searching for meaning lost in the morass of your […]
There are ways to rework your stories so that you can minimize “telling” and maximize “showing.” The biggest “telling” offense is perhaps…
To write a better memoir, make use of the core memory list. The extended memory list does not make value judgments about the quality of your memories. The core memory list, however, distinguishes between two sorts of memories— the important from the unimportant.
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 […]
Telling the Truth About your Life
In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with subtle—and not so subtle—messages about who we ought to be, it is a bold statement to take a stand for personal truth and authenticity.
The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.—Sam Keen, Writer
One of the most transformative statements an individual can make is to tell his/her story with honesty and objectivity. At its best, this is what a memoir is—a statement that declares “this is who I am, who I think of myself as being.”
Lest you think that telling the truth is only about revealing scandals and unmasking abuses, let me assure you that it is more often about smaller issues, issues more within the realm of the everyday experience. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
One of the critical steps you can take as a writer is to find ways to share your work with others. Those others might be writers, they might be friends, or they might be family members. Don’t let your hard work sit in a drawer unread. Writing is meant to be read. We write down […]