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Monday, May 2, 2016

Two Important Things In Memoir Writing


Memoir writing has been in vogue for several years and it still appears to be going strong. Celebrities write entire books to share their story with fans. A memoir differs from an autobiography in that the memoir can focus on one area and is filled with emotions and viewpoints while the autobiography is generally fact-filled, chronological and covers a full life, not just a potion.

I have noticed over the years that the Memoir category in our state authors contest always has the most entries. That also means it's the most competitive and when one places in that category, he/she can be proud. We all have memories that can be turned into a memoir piece of 2,000 words or less for a contest or a magazine. The topics within are boundless. Reach back for memories of school days, the home where you grew up, your extended family, influential friends, moving from place to place or staying in one all those years, your marriage, births of your children. The list can go on and on. 

For me, two things become extremely important when writing a memoir piece if you want it to be of interest to others. 

1.  Tell not only what happened but inform your reader how it affected you and your family members or friends. What was learned? If you tell what happened and ignore the next part, you're writing a slice of life piece which could be of far greater interest to you than to your readers. But, if you let them know how you were affected and what you learned, they are more apt to key in and relate it to their own experiences. In the personal essay, we need to gift our reader with a universal truth of some kind, and I think this can apply to memoir writing, too. 

2. Show your reader what happened. Show your characters' traits. You can tell me that Grandpa had a mean streak but I'm going to 'get it' a whole lot better if you illustrate his character trait. Show him kicking a cat down the stairs or swatting a dog who got in his way. That will make your reader wince, especially if he/she is an animal lover. Show the reader what your mother was like after she fed 10 hungry field hands every mid-day during harvest time. Don't say something like My mother looked tired after the weeks of harvest and feeding the hands every day. Show us her posture, the circles under her eyes and maybe the smile that accompanied them because she was grateful for the help. Show us what she wore as she spent hours in the kitchen preparing those hearty meals. Show your memories so that the reader can begin to feel how you were affected.

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