Writing the Memoir

The fun in writing a memoir comes with the actual writing. In no other nonfiction genre do you come closer to storytelling than you do when you write a memoir. You have the opportunity to utilize all the techniques of creative writing. In essence, you will be composing your craft under the umbrella of what has become known as “creative nonfiction,” which will be explored in Chapter 19.

The Elements of a Memoir

Because you are writing a memoir and not simply making entries into your diary, you need to recount your story with clarity and skill so that it can be read and appreciated by others. In order to do this, it is helpful to be aware of three key elements: summary, exposition, and drama.

One of the indispensable features of creative writing that applies to memoirs is to follow the mantra “show, don't tell.” A direct exposition of facts and details belongs to other nonfiction genres. Description, setting, bringing the characters to life, and even dialogue are the ingredients to a successful memoir.

Introducing the reader to your memoir requires providing some background information. Unlike a diary, it is not simply a matter of indicating the date and place; rather, you need to do this in narrative form in the first section. Following the summary, you'll go into the exposition, which is the story development that allows the reader to learn everything necessary to understand what is transpiring. From there, proceed to the main “meat” of the story, which equates to the plot in fiction. Finally, like every good story, make sure the narrative dramatically builds toward, and reaches, a climax.

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