Shaping your memoir around your passion

We all have a story, or many stories, to share.

Stories that enlighten. Entertain. Inspire.

Stories that make us sad. Or happy. Or wiser.

So, if you’re wondering if you have a story worth writing, worth sharing, the answer is yes.

If you’re wondering if it’s as simple as writing down random thoughts about your life as you they come to you, the answer is no.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Give readers a reason to care

Think of how stories are told in good books or movies. They engage you from the opening scene or first page. You connect with the characters. You care about them. You see them strive for something. You see them endure heartache and failure. You see them continue to go after their goal. You see them, against great odds, achieve their goal.

Memoirs should be as compelling and engaging as a movie or book of fiction.

But our lives are not as simple and clean as a book or movie. So you have to decide what you want your memoir to focus on.

An autobiography is generally chronological. A memoir does not have to be. A memoir can be arranged by theme. For example: Let’s say you were orphaned as a child. You were placed in foster homes and had some rough times in them. You threw yourself into acting, as an outlet. You eventually became a fairly famous actor and director. Later in life, you battled cancer – and won.

In an autobiography, you would likely cover everything, from being orphaned to becoming a famous actor to beating cancer.

Choosing what to write about

In a memoir, you could write about your experiences as an orphan and young child growing up. OR you could write about your acting life. OR you could write about your battle against cancer.

(Could you write about all three subjects in a memoir? Of course. But all of your memoir writing would hinge on the primary theme of overcoming challenges. Everything would be seen through that lens. Other portions of your life – your dating that beautiful actress or handsome actor, or vacationing in the Bahamas and meeting an interesting beach bum – would be left out. Those portions don’t serve your purpose. They don’t expound on your theme.)

Build your memoir around your passion

So the first thing you want to ask yourself about your memoir is really quite simple: What in your life are you passionate about? What, if you had only one subject to talk about in your life, would you choose?

Then start to build around that subject.

Here’s a good exercise to help you get started.

Think of that subject that you are passionate about. Then begin to jot brief notes about incidents in your life that can help you reveal your passion through your story.

You’ll be surprised at how many incidents will eventually come to mind. Don’t rush this process. Move slowly in your memory, year by year.

Memoir is art, not science

Know this: There is no formula for writing a good memoir. It is art, not science.

It takes the gift of knowing what story is, what characters and conflict are.

It takes knowing how to pace your story, how to write realistic and meaningful dialogue, what details in a scene to leave in, what to leave out. What entire scenes to leave out.

Tell me your process. What has – or hasn’t – worked for you? What wisdom do you have to share? What’s your biggest problem in writing a memoir?

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