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Elements of a Memoir

The elements of a memoir might seem simple, but life has a funny way of throwing curveballs at you. Telling a compelling story will always be at the heart of a memoir, but how you do that will determine how authentic the story happens to be. Let’s take a look at the 5 elements of writing a memoir with some more detail so your story can be told in an effective manner.

#1. To Tell the Truth

Honesty will always be the main element of a memoir. The moment a writer starts embellishing the facts is the moment trouble begins to happen. Not only does it ruin the credibility of the story, but it destroys the writer at the same time. A reader who discovers lies in a memoir will not trust that person any longer.

Now we don’t always remember everything in exact detail, especially if several years have passed. There are flashes and glimpses of what happened, as well as the final outcomes that have affected us. It’s better to put in as many real details as possible and fill in the gaps with some additional research rather than try to make things up along the way.

#2. Create a Theme

An autobiography is the complete story of a person’s life. Memoirs are simply scenes from that life. This means there must be a theme included with the memoir as one of its elements. There must be one overall key point that is being conveyed to the reader.

There really aren’t any limits to what key point is trying to be made. It just has to come from the heart and attempt to capture all of the essential elements that turn a memory into a story. There’s no pretense in the words that a memoir is life itself. The theme binds the memories together. You need to find that binder.

#3. Discover Your Voice

Every writer has their own voice they use to convey thoughts to readers. This voice comes with word selection, sentence structure, grammatical use, and other language elements. If you’ve read several works from the same writer, you can identify future works by that writer whenever you encounter them. This is the voice that must be discovered in a memoir.

There is no right or wrong writer’s voice to use. There’s also no real way to develop a personal writing voice until you actually sit down and begin to write. Once that happens, you’ll discover sentence rhythms which make you comfortable. You’ll see certain language quirks begin to show up. Even specific images or parables will be used on a fairly repetitious manner.

#4. The Narrative

Most memoirs are going to be written in the first person. This means there are going to be a lot of singular pronouns that are going to be used. What makes writing in this narrative a little tricky is that it can come off as feeling a bit preachy if it isn’t done correctly. It naturally creates a separation between the reader and the author when there is a clash of ethics, morality, or even wills.

What the narrative must do is invite the reader to become the author in the memory. The goal is to share the experience so that the lessons learned from them can also be shared. This can be difficult to do since it opens the writer up to additional criticism that feels personal, but in the end it will also create something quite profound for those who read the memoir.

#5. Don’t Forget About Perception

What is it that makes your memoir stand out from all of the other memoirs out there today? Are you famous? Do you have expertise that others do not have? Were the experiences in your life something that could teach everyone something new? The goal of a memoir is ultimately to make sure everything is all about the writer. It’s what they remember, what they thought, and what they learned. If that is conveyed as being important, then the reader will see it as being important.

To make this happen, you’ll want to keep track of each memory as best you can. Think about each moment and what it meant to you. Why was that moment perfect? Was there a mistake made? What would you do differently? These little snippets will become the backbone of each moment your memoir offers.

The elements of a memoir will always include these 5 key points. This is what connects writers to readers when discussing the moments of life of that are important. Include them and you’ll be able to begin creating something memorable.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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