As you probably already know, I’m teaching a memoir class this month. I’d like to share some of the information from that class with youl
We are focusing on creating a theme for your memoir. Not all memoirs have themes, but many that are published to have one.
Your stories are like pearls and the theme provides the string that holds them together. One option that people use when writing memoir is to structure the content around a theme.
Theme provides: development of an idea, conceptual coherence, a guide for what to include in your story and what to leave out.
The biggest problem in writing a memoir is that you know every detail of your life – what happened to you, around you, how you felt or reacted, things you’ve accomplished, where you’ve failed and where you’ve triumphed. You know what you’ve overcome and what challenges you’re still working on. The greatest challenge is that you know too much. You make the decision about what to include and what to leave out.
Life sorting: This is a little like recycling, you need two containers. Have you ever seen the television shows where they go into someone’s home and rejuvenate a room that is filled to the ceiling with junk? They have bins for sorting: Keep – Give Away – Throw Away.
I propose that we use these categories as columns for sorting the stories and the details in those stories.
Keep = details that you want to include in your memoir
Give Away = stories or details you want to put aside for now and use later in another story or chapter
Throw Away = details or stories that you consider best left out
These are flexible categories and you can change them from one category to another, but only after you’ve written your basic story.