So you’re ready to share some of your memories with others. The truth is this: there are virtually an unlimited number of ways that you can tell a story today. That means there are an infinite number of ways that you can start that story. This is the challenge in knowing how to start a memoir.
A great place to start is to create an outline. Some might even call it a “menu.” This will let you begin to work out the details you want to include with your memoir so you can begin to develop a natural beginning to it. Many memoirs begin at the very beginning of the story: start developing your outline by looking at other types of beginnings that may work.
Once you’ve developed this outline, you can begin to fill in more of the details of that starting point by including these additional ideas.
#1. Aggressive and Fast
Character development is what holds the attention of a reader, but that’s later on in your memoir. What you need in the beginning is a solid hook. It will help the readers want to keep reading each paragraph you write.
This means starting fast and aggressive. Give the story some energy and momentum right away by including some sort of action. Then keep that action sustainable so the energy levels don’t drop off as the reader gets deeper into the story.
If you start with an interesting situation, then think about what will make that story stay interesting. Then just keep telling your story.
#2. Be the Expert
Readers will pick up your memoir because they believe you’ll deliver something they need. In the business world, this is called a “value proposition.” People want the best product from the provider with the most expertise. If they’re reading your memoir, then you’ve taken the first step in showing others that they are the best.
Now you’ve got to keep going. Be confident in your writing style. Make the content conversational, but with experience behind the words. You’ve got to keep proving your expertise and you can do this by offering surprising insights, strong emotions, and material that offers the possibility of personal improvements by the reader.
#3. Create the Conversation
It’s not just expertise that readers are wanting to find within your words in a memoir. They’re also looking for you to begin establishing a relationship with them. In this type of writing, it means the relationship has to feel almost intimate in nature in order for it to be effective.
What does it mean to be intimate? It means creating a dialogue that doesn’t feel one-sided when reading the memoir. The feeling should be one that is similar to sitting down with a good friend over a cup of coffee and discussing the day. Your descriptions and experiences included will help to do this, especially at the beginning of the story.
#4. Draw Out the Foundation
The start of a memoir must also be the cornerstone for the rest of your story. The cornerstone is the first stone that is set when laying a foundation for a building. Today it is more of a ceremonial stone, but there must also be a solid first stone set for a strong foundation to be laid. If your story doesn’t have a solid start, then the rest of the narrative will not be able to stand strong.
When you form the foundation of your story at the beginning, think about how you could sum up your life story in one sentence. Or one primary lesson learned. What would the thesis statement of your life be? Work on that concept and you’ll be able to create an introduction that is interesting and strong so the readers will want to come along on the journey.
#5. Form the Excitement
Excitement in literature is a lot like a person yawning: it’s contagious and no one really understands why. If you can energize one reader with the start of your memoir, then you’ll be able to have that energy spread from person to person.
Because of this, many writers tend to try writing from the perspective of what they think the readers are going to want. The problem with this is that it often leads to a halfhearted writing effort because you’re writing for them instead of for you. To create excitement, you’ve got to be excited. Your energy will create the contagious energy everyone else experiences.
Knowing how to start a memoir can be frustrating at first, but with a little help it can become another rewarding step in the creation of a great story. Follow these ideas to get your memoir started and you’ll be able to tell a great story.