Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing Memoirs Part 3--Organizing Your Memoir and Writing Tips

Life review yields long-term gains that enrich character by bringing understanding to events. The patterns in your life become more discernible among the wreckage and the romance, more like a well-plotted novel that reveals characters through their actions and reactions.                                                                                                                                                          ----James Hillman

Now is the time to begin writing your story. But how do you organize all these anecdotes, these precious times in your life?

Organizing Stories
There is no hard and fast rule about how to organize the stories. I do believe each person has to take some time to first write the easy stories to tell. Once you start writing and conversing with friends and family about the old days, so many stories will surface. Write them all down without worry about organization. Keep them in your three ring binder.

1. Themes..The more you write the more you may discover there are themes to your stories. There may be several accounts about being a caretaker for your parents, a hobby you love, pets you have had over the years. Each topic will be a theme which you can expand.

2. Chronological Order

3. Relate happenings in the present to something in the past e.g. the movie/book Julie and Julia. The story follows the exuberant chef, Julia Childs in the past and the present story of Julie who decided to write a blog about making every single recipe in Julia’s cookbook every day for a year.

The Five W’s and How
When writing your memoir, remember your journalism class and the prof expounding on the five w’s—who, what, where, when, why, and how. It is very important to explain to readers of the future who this person is and how he/she is related to you, the location, the dates when the action takes place, and why this particular episode in your life is significant to you.

Show and Tell
In every good story, there must be more showing than telling to keep the reader’s interest. Dialogue is an interesting way to help move the story along. Using the five senses immerses the reader into the story. Include interesting characteristics of your subject to bring them to life. I have a woman in our family, who shall remain nameless, who picked her nose all the time she talked to me. Maybe you have an uncle like I did who prayed and prayed and prayed before a meal. And how about my aunt whose mustache was so dark that when she died, the undertaker shaved it off and nobody recognized her in the casket?

Describe a relative or friend in your life as if (s)he is a character in your novel. Bring her to life for us. Be sure to include how (s)he is related to you and why she is important in your life.

J Q Rose is the author of the mystery-light horror novella, Sunshine Boulevard, published by Muse It Up Publishing.


Roseanne Dowell said...

Great tips for writing your memoirs. One of these days, I really do have to start mine. I have jotted down a few things, but I need to sit down and seriously get busy. Thanks for sharing.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I know a few new writers who are itching to write their memoirs. I'm passing this post on to them asap. Great advice, JQ. This is going to make their job a lot easier. Thanks.

J.Q. Rose said...

Roseanne...yes, you must write down your stories. You have six kids plus who would love to read about your life, not to mention all those grandkids!! Don't wait. You are invited to start today.

J.Q. Rose said...

Joylene...Thanks for passing this workshop on to them. I hope it does help them get started. Now, how about you???

Christopher Hoare said...

Can't see me writing a complete memoir, but I have used some events in my blogs when I'm stuck for a post. We have one lady in our local writers' group who writes memoir about her parents and grandparents that we all find interesting.

But do keep at people to write them down, Janet. I wish I had my mother's early stories about life in the boarding school and her early experiences in 'service'. "Upstairs, Downstairs" mean anything to you? Her mother was housekeeper to Lloyd George's private secretary before WWI.

J.Q. Rose said...

Christopher--I find the old stories fascinating. In fact I became so interested in life story writing when a member in my writers group read from a journal her great, great, great (?) grandfather wrote in 1850's. He lived in London and window shopped for books. He couldn't afford to buy one, but longed for them. Eventually he moved to the USA and became a minister. Yes, I'm familiar with "Upstairs, Downstairs." Too bad those stories are not recorded. Thank you for commenting here. And of course, I have to say it's time for you to write your life story. You've already got some written from your blog. That's a great start! Best wishes.