Thoughts on Memoir Writing

What is a Memoir?

A memoir is a slice of life. It is not an entire life story, that would be a biography. The topics for a memoir are varied and cover a broad range but usually have a universal theme which connect the story to the reader. It is an investigation into the human condition which links lives together.

A memoir is classified as non-fiction it is most often written in the first person.

There is no template for a memoir, there are many different styles of writing. Some are a straight narrative and others use more elements of the novel style. The important aspect of a memoir is the author’s voice. It is not so much what is told as how the author tells it. It is really the art of storytelling.

Reasons for a Memoir

There are many reasons people write memoirs. Some authors just want to preserve their family history, and some write to entertain. Yet others write to correct a wrong or to heal from a broken relationship, sometimes called a healing memoir. I am writing my family story in the hope that others will learn about dementia.  Some of course write for fame and fortune and to those I say good luck.

Favorite Memoirs

I like my memoirs action packed. I tend to skip over long analytical passages that lull me to sleep. Another essential for me is humor. It gives the story another layer of interest when humor is present, it offers entertainment.  Humor can also break up a heavy scene and create a change of pace. Mind you not all memoirs lend themselves to humor, but they may contain aching humor. This type of humor presents the kind of situation where you don’t know if you should laugh or cry. That’s a page turner for me.

A few of my favorite Memoirs:

Liar’s Club  by Mary Karr

Angelas’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

“It All Changed In An Instant” More Six Word Memoirs, edited by Smith Magazine


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