Hello and welcome, everyone, to Adventures in Writing and my first Author Toolbox Blog Hop post. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Victoria Marie Lees and I write YA short story adventures, poetry, and memoir.
Memoir is a story—yes, even though it’s about the writer’s life, it is a story. “Just the facts, Ma’am,” is autobiography. Memoir is usually about one specific time period in the writer’s life, a period where discoveries are made. Memoir interprets the events for the reader. Occasionally, the timeline of memoir may be scattered throughout the writer’s lifetime, but the focus will be narrowed to one topic.
My memoir is about the ten-year journey I took through academia to acquire a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania while still being a mother to my five children during their growing-up years. It encompasses the trials a parent needs to face and understand when attempting such an endeavor and how to survive it successfully.
Memoir needs to be true. You must include the fiction elements of:
protagonist vs. antagonist[s], even if the antagonist is a concept like time or academic understanding;
tension and problem resolution;
an overall-story ticking clock;
setting and pacing;
the creation of believable characters out of real people.
This is what makes memoir so difficult to write. You are telling a story about yourself with all these fiction elements in place.
Then you need to consider that memoir is not all about you. Memoir needs to offer critical insight for the reader.
So how do you do this?
By looking inside yourself to understand why you did what you did at that time, why you thought what you thought at that time.
Remember. Just like in fiction, the reader needs to be in the scene, understanding your every move. Everything from why you think it’s best to drop a course, as in my memoir, to why any parent would ever attempt an Ivy League education after starting her education at a community college close to home.
The often misunderstood “Show, don’t tell” helps with this. “Show, don’t tell” means to show the reader why what’s happening matters to the protagonist. Fiction or memoir, you need to show how the protagonist came to that decision—internally. Inner thoughts are at the heart of any story or memoir. In other words, to borrow from Hemingway, to write a memoir, you need to “bleed” on the page.
Readers want to be in the head of the protagonist, hearing the inner thoughts and understanding any logic for decisions made, no matter how flawed that logic may be.
Remember, the protagonist is flawed. This is the most difficult part for memoirists.
Now you’re thinking: “Me? Flawed?”
Okay, so I don’t know about you, but I’m greatly flawed. Just ask my children.
As in all creative writing, the writer must decide what to put in the story or essay and what to leave out—especially in memoir. Memoir is not your whole life. That’s autobiography. Memoir is only a small piece of it.
For me to choose which flaw to showcase in my college memoir, I needed to consider the flaw that would resonate most with the story question of why I waited until I had five children to attend college. My youngest, twins, started second grade and the oldest, who is learning-disabled, started high school when I began my college journey.
To dramatize that moment in the memoir, I needed to consider my own personal backstory, my past, my growing up years to discover the origin scene for the flaw in my own logic.
There is so much to consider when creating a memoir. This should get you started if you plan to write one in the future. I’d like to continue this topic for next month’s Author Toolbox blog hop.
Please feel free to share any good memoirs you have read or leave any questions you may have about memoir or writing in the comments section. Again, thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. I’ll be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here.