In memoir writing, it’s critical that we invite our readers to relate to our life stories. If we don’t, we are cheating them out of the very reason they bought our books—to share our experiences.
Here are some of the memoir and life story writing tips I ask my students to keep on their desks beside them as they write.
Scenes help reveal the characters’ personalities. (Yes, your memoir needs characters.) A scene takes place in one location. It contains dialog, action (or gestures), and emotion. Most scenes involve conflict.
When writing is general or is burdened with adjectives, it lacks power. It’s also weak when it relies heavily on words like “very” and “nice.” Banish them in favor of words with heft.
Share your feelings and insights.
Don’t focus only on what happened. You’re not just an objective observer. Share your thoughts, feelings, and opinions about your experiences. You’re the main character. Be there. (Boomers and seniors often have trouble with this one, since we learned to keep our real feelings to ourselves.)
Involve the readers’ senses.
Include sights, smells, tastes, touch, and sounds to make your writing come alive. How did the fried chicken taste at those Sunday dinners on the farm? What noises did came in from the street outside your city apartment? How did the chairs at your grandmother’s house feel? Were they stiff, or did you sink softly into them?
Think about the writing that appeals to you, moves you, draws you into the author’s experience. You’ll recognize that these are the tactics those authors employ to take you out of your world and into theirs.
Note: I can’t take credit for coming up with all of these tips. I’ve assembled them from the dozens of books, articles, and web sites that I use to teach memoir writing.
More tips are on the way in future posts.
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