6 Creative Ways To Tell A Powerful Memoir!

Writer with Scrabble tilesI like to read memoirs of people I admire and respect, I feel they always have something to teach me. And one of the first “columns” I read in Writer's Digest is the “5-Minute Memoir” and it is normally at least entertaining! But, how can you make your memoir rememberable, exciting, or have it deliver a powerful message? Here are six tips on writing one!

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1. Narrow Your Focus.

You don't want to make your memoir the story of your life. Or, if you consider your life as a pie, you want your memoir to be a teeny-tiny sliver. Remember, your memoir is not an autobiography. An autobiography spans your entire life while a memoir focuses in on a series (or one) moments around a theme. You want your readers to walk away knowing you, and that one experience, on a much deeper level.

2. Include More Than Just Your Story.

Yes, I said you want to narrow your focus, but our writing needs to be bigger! Think about like this; imagine I was writing about my trips to the Boundary Water Canoe Area. My memoir would be on the trips and what I learned about myself on each one, I should include some other details. Perhaps the history of how the lakes were formed or the statue that we found on Lake Brule. I would share some other stories I have heard, especially if they are on the same theme.

3. Tell The Truth.

One of the best ways to make your memoir powerful is to be honest and genuine. This can often be tricky because we don't want to hurt or upset the people we include in it; mainly our friends and family! One note on honesty: Memoirs explore the truth as seen through your eyes. Don't write in a bitter or sarcastic voice. You don't want your memoir to exact revenge or seek forgiveness. You want to just share your experience. Don't exaggerate the truth or bend it.

4. Put The Reader In Your Shoes.

In writing one of the major things they try and teach us is to show, not tell! As a memoir writer, we must remember this because we want to invite the reader into our perspective so they can draw their own conclusions. The best way to do this is to let your story unfold before their eyes by using vivid language that will help them visualize each scene. Maybe you want to explain how your uncle was an alcoholic. If you just say this, your description will likely come across as judgmental and critical. Instead, paint a picture for your readers so they come to this conclusion on their own. You might write it like this:


The vodka bottles littered the den and kitchen. I learned a long time ago, the hard way, not to knock on his door until well afternoon. Most days he didn't enter our joint living quarters until closer to dusk. I would read his face to see if it was safe to ask about money so that I could get one meal in before I went to bed.

5. Use The Elements Of Fiction To Bring Your Story To Life.

Think about the people in your memoir as characters. A great memoir pulls you into their lives, what they struggle with, what they are successful at, and what they wonder about. Many of the best memoir writers focus on a few key characteristics of their characters, allowing the reader to get to know each one in-depth. You want your readers to either love or hate your characters, and you do this with just the right amount of details.

Introduce setting details and develop your plot from the words in your story. Show your readers the locations you describe and evoke emotions within them. You want your readers to experience your story almost as if it was their own.

6. Create An Emotional Journey.

You don't want to knock the socks off your reader; you want to knock their pants, shirt, shoes, and underwear off too! Leave your readers with their jaw dropped in awe, or laughing hysterically, or crying streams; or better yet, all three!

For example, the moment you discovered your spouse has cancer you might say something like:


I learned of my wife's cancer when I came home one day and found her curled up with pictures of our grandson scattered around her and she was curled up in a ball. I noticed her eyes were red from crying, and then I spotted the doctors diagnose stage-4 lung cancer. I didn't even know she had gone to see him!

Will You Write A Memoir?

If you follow these guidelines while writing your memoir, you will create a story that will captivate your readers and leave them begging for more! And more importantly, you will share your history with an authentic story with the rest of the world.

Here are some other tips on writing memoirs and journals!

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