2015 A to Z

Elements of Memoir

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? And what is memoir anyway? During the 2015 A to Z Challenge I will be answering some of your questions as well as offering some possible ideas you might consider in writing your own memoir story. I'd also like to hear some of your ideas about memoir in the comment section. Let's talk about memoir.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Unique (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       Even though your story may be similar to the stories of a million others, you are nevertheless unique in who you are.   What will make your memoir stand out from the rest is to create an aura of uniqueness for yourself.  Think about your habits and hobbies, your strengths and weaknesses, or any of the other attributes that set you apart from others who are somewhat like you.

        Whether it be success or failure, how you've handled the life situations you've encountered might be part of a special story that only you can tell.   In some ways it might help to think of memoir in the same way you would approach a resume.  What is it that makes you stand out among the crowd that makes you particularly suited for the job?

       With a memoir you are applying for the reader's time.  Why should they pick up your book to read about your life?   The difference between the memoir and the resume is that the memoir may not be all braggadocio, but you might have shortcomings and less than good outcomes at times.  Don't sell yourself short in the end though.  Your story needs to move the reader in some way to be a memorable experience for them.    Your memoir needs to have that uniqueness that makes it a special reading event.

         Do you currently have a resume?   When you tell a story about yourself do you sometimes embellish it to make it more interesting?   What are some unique attributes or talents that you have?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Travel (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

      Travel captures everyone's imagination.  Whether it be stories about wandering off to far-off exotic places or something as commonplace as the typical family vacation, there are fun and fascinating stories to be told about traveling.  Most readers like to dream about the places where they are unlikely to ever go or compare notes about travel to places they've been.  Travel makes for good stories.

       If we look at the wide range of literature we see that the travel story is a common one that depicts metaphors of life as well as real situations that keep a story interesting.  Thinking about your own experiences with going places you probably have a few stories to tell about what happened to you in your adventures.

       The stories about traveling can be funny, frightening, or romantic.  Anything can happen when you're away from home and it usually does.   Isn't that why we travel in the first place.  The unexpected, the unusual, and the entertaining are some of the elements that can be injected into your travel stories.   Don't forget to include the people you meet along the way as well as the places you see.   Be sure to describe the details of the smells, sounds, and everything in the surrounding environment.   And definitely don't forget the food!   Make your reader's mouth water or even cringe if the food was not so good.

         A memoir has an added dimension when travel can be included in the story.   If travel is a big part of the story then you have the big plus of place in addition to people.  Think of some of your own travels and see what stories you can derive from those experiences.

         Have you done much travel in your lifetime?   Do you have any interesting family vacations to tell stories about?    What travel dreams and aspirations do you have right now?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Storytelling (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       Memoir should never be approached as a history.   Autobiography can tell the history of a life while memoir, while having some value in the sense of historical perspective, should deal with a story or a series of stories within the context of a life.   Memoir can teach, but it should primarily entertain or enthrall the reader.

      The memoir is intended to be an intimate account of a special period, event, or some significant influence within a person's life.  If you are writing your memoir, you should tell the story in much the same way you might present a work of fiction.   You can include dialogue, character development, plot, and descriptions that bring the reader into the story.  This memoir story should not only be about what you did, but also what you thought and how you felt.

       After all the memoir is not normally seen as some sort of scholarly work, but it is a story that occurs within the story of the life being examined.   The story is not that you were born, then you did this and that, and then you died.    The memoir story is the one that delves into part of the big story and brings that story to life for the reader.

        So far, what has been the most interesting part of your life?    Does a memoir usually leave you wanting to know more about the person whose story has been told?    What part of a memoir story do you think might be boring to readers?  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reach (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

      When your memoir is still in the planning stage that is a good time to decide what audience you will be attempting to reach with your effort.  The subject matter of the memoir will make it easier to conclude who will make up your audience.  A story about childhood might be well suited for a younger audience where a story with mature subject matter and difficult issues will be better directed toward an adult audience.   Your intended audience will determine your voice and the depth of the story.

       Once you've decided what audience you are trying to reach then you can start outlining or making notes accordingly.   The audience reach will have a bearing upon the language used as well as the complexity of what you will discuss in the narrative.

       Audience becomes especially important when trying to market your memoir when it is finished.  A memoir dealing with spiritual issues might be of interest to a Christian publisher to be mainly distributed in Christian bookstores.   Highly specific stories catering to a particular niche market might be better to self-publish and self-market.

         Before any marketing begins to happen though you must finish your memoir.  As you write, think about who might be reading your work later on.    If you establish a reasonably clear idea of the reach of your work you need to write with that in mind.  Later you might change your mind and need to rewrite for a different audience, but if you've done your homework and remained consistent in your writing you should have a book that will be marketable to your intended audience.

         Have you ever read a book that you didn't care for because it had been inappropriately marketed?    Do you think an author should generally write most of their work for the same type of audience?     Would it be more difficult for you to attempt to reach a youth market or an adult market?  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quitting (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

     Many of us want to read the memoir stories about achievement or success.   Initially "quitting" does not necessarily sound like an encouraging or uplifting story for memoir.   Quitting can have a negative connotation since we are often taught the "Never give up!" mantra of following through no matter how difficult things might be.

       However let's not forget the success stories of quitting a bad habit or quitting something that turns out for the better for us.   If you've quit a destructive behavior there are others who might also like to quit that same behavior and might find your story to be a help to them.  Quitting smoking, overeating, drugs, or any detrimental activity can include humorous moments as well as the roller coaster ride of defeat and triumph that we can experience on the journey to kicking any bad habit.

        Quitting can also involve getting out of situations such as a job, school, or a marriage.  The act of having quit might have been a mistake that leads to regrets or unwanted outcomes.  But quitting one situation always is an open door to a new chapter in life.  Hopefully your story of having given up eventually led to a better situation.

        We can all learn from the experiences of others.  Take a close look at your life and the things that you quit along the way.  Think about how your story can entertain and possibly even help others.

         What bad habits have you struggled with quitting?    Did you ever quit something that you later regretted?   Have you been helped by anyone else's quitting stories?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Parenting (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

        Parenting is one skill that none of us ever completely masters.  Books on how to be a good parent line book store shelves as those with children search for the best advice on how to do the parenting job correctly.   Is there any one correct way to be a parent?

         A memoir about being a parent has a great many possibilities since there are so many different stories out there.   A writer can tell about being a child of parents or the parent of a child.  There are even the story permutations of what their own parents experienced with their parents.   A memoir writer could spend a career discussing their experiences related to the world of parenting.

        As with any memoir topic, the parenting stories can be sheer entertaining fun or a serious look at bad parenting or the tragedies that even good parents sometimes face.  Think about your own experiences growing up.  Your parents had their theories and methodology concerning raising children.  Perhaps you envied a friend because they had parents who seemed so perfect.   No parents are perfect just as seemingly bad parents often mean well in their efforts.

        Your parenting stories might be similar to the stories that others tell or they might be completely different.   Think about your stories of having parents and being a parent.   What is it that others might find interesting?    How might others relate to your stories?   Start writing down your stories and see if the inspiration is there to write an interesting memoir about your own life experience in regard to parents and parenting.

         Do you have good memories about growing up?    Did your parents tell you stories about their own parents?    Was there a good friend that you had whose family made you feel like you were part of their's?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Old Age (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

         Old age is a natural part of life for those who are fortunate enough to make it that far.  It's a time when many stories of the past can be looked upon sometimes with a keen eye of accuracy or through a hazy view of fading memory.   The elderly can have a wealth of knowledge to share that can help you if you're writing a memoir.   Don't overlook that value as they will often remember the details that you might have missed.   Sharing memories is good for them as well.  Older folks can sometimes feel a bit neglected and welcome the time to share the stories they have stored away inside them.   Remembering can be good for the mind.   When spending time with your seniors you might be helping them as much as they can help you.

       As each of us grow older the time for writing memoir gets shorter and the call becomes more urgent.  It's never too early to start writing memoir and it's only too late when you're no longer around to write down those memories that may be forgotten to the ages if you haven't taken the time to record them.   Even if your memoirs are never published, the keepsake left to future generations is a thing of great value.   Keep your own memory sharp by writing memoir.   One day you may not have that memory to enjoy.

       Has anyone in your family written down their life memories?   Do you ever ask elders about what they remember about the past?    Is there any true value to the memories of the person who was never famous or a major historical figure?