gallery Ten Cool Tips for Writing Memoirs

Memoirs: those stories that capture moments in time and which can be moving, funny, insightful, exciting, scary, and challenging, and which reveal something real about the human condition.

In The Art of Memoir, published in 2015, US author  Mary Karr offers some great tips for writing memoirs that convey a memory in a way that is meaningful to the reader.

  1. Paint a physical reality that uses all the senses and exists in the time you’re writing about—a singular, fascinating place peopled with objects and characters we believe in.
  2. Tell a story that gives the reader some idea of your milieu and exploits your talent. We remember in stories, and for a writer, the story is where you start.
  3. Package information about your present self or backstory so it has emotional conflict or scene.
  4. Set emotional stakes—why is the writer passionate about or desperate to deal with the past—the hint of an inner enemy?
  5. Think, figure, wonder, guess. Show yourself weighing what’s true, your fantasies, values, schemes, and failures.
  6. Change times back and forth—early on, establish the “looking back” voice, and the “being in it” voice.
  7. Collude with the reader about your relationship with the truth and memory.
  8. Show not so much how you suffer in long passages, but how you survive. Use humour or an interjecting adult voice to help a reader over the dark places.
  9. Don’t exaggerate. Trust that what you felt deeply is valid.
  10. Watch your blind spots—in revision, if not before, search for reversals. Beware of what you avoid and what you cling to.

And one big fat caveat: lead with your own talent, which may cause you to ignore all I’ve recommended.’

RememberMoments

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