Where do you get the details to put in a memoir? How do you remember things from so long ago? Which ones are the correct memories to use? How do I connect them?
You will now gather the particular details and make them universal so your reader can connect with the words you write. Use one part exertion to one part grace as you engage all your senses and summarize the events when you need to pick up pace and intersperse narration with scenes, dialogue, and action to allow the reader to experience your life through their eyes. Be sophisticated and subtle but don’t get preachy.
First things first, let’s set out your timeline of important events in your life.
- Aha moments
- My wake-up calls
- Event that I’ve survived
- What I know now that I’d wish I’d known back then
- Think eight-word logline
- Moments of epiphany
- What you’d be willing to sacrifice to protect your deepest truths
- What would you die for?
- Times of crisis, losing all hope and how you recovered
- Experiences that have shaken your sense of meaning
- What you must bury
Don’t forget to add local and world events to give the reader a sense of history. Our timeline (time + space) is our setting. Use your chosen theme to find elements to illuminate your setting then sprinkle the elements of plot. Don’t forget that an easy life is a dull life so add turning points or obstacles or conflict that caused us to scurry in a new direction. These trials and tribulations where your life didn’t run smoothly give your story flavor. Allow your character passions and obsessions reveal your theme. Remember that you’re not writing an autobiography (life to death) but a memoir (highlight of a given time). You want to be deep yet selective. On this timeline, you’ll determine where to start your story, which point of view to use to emphasize plot, eliminating backstory and focusing on plot, where to sprinkle flashbacks and memories, emotional pacing, and where to end your story. Begin with 5-8 key points and then turns those into 40-50 scenes.
Keep in mind that you can tell the story in a linear fashion (moving forward through time), begin with the ending and work backwards, the twist where we invert expectations we’ve been building all along, a sequence of events moving through fascinating experiences, a story within a story, or non-linear (moving between past and present). While you proceed in the way you chose, remember to tease with tension (foreshadowing events, deadlines, warnings, premonitions, withholding information, building anticipation, and surprises or secrets) to keep your reader on their toes.
Now use your universal voice to gather those details to emotionally activate your reader. The first thing we write is our gateway to delve into our truth or felt experiences, where it may even be scary to say out loud, instead take a risk, and make your heart race. Use your opening lines to hook your reader, make them care, and feel they are in a reliable storyteller’s hands. Shock, grip, or compel them to fascinate in your words. If you lose your way, the real work starts, and your journey begins. Examine the complexity of multifaceted events (great, tragic, desperate, and undetermined). Use your voice to create a connection from your personal to the universal so your reader will understand the significant meaning. Feel deeply to evoke the emotional experience. Allow the reader to connect their own stories with our experience.
Now it’s time to tighten and trim your manuscript by editing it. Analyze the pace, setting, point of view, structure, plot holes, character arcs, and voice. Then it comes the time to seek out constructive feedback. Let it go and it will come back to you with suggestions that will put it in a new light. It was a long, tenuous road but you mapped it out which made it easier. Voila!
Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Bookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.