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What Are The Core Elements Of A Memoir?
Kathryn Brown Ramsperger -- Author & Intuitive Life Coach(R) Kathryn Brown Ramsperger -- Author & Intuitive Life Coach(R)
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Rockville, MD
Friday, September 11, 2020


When you begin writing your memoir, it’s important to understand it isn’t an autobiography. It’s sometimes tempting to include all the amazing things you’ve experienced in your life, but a memoir is not meant to be a timeline of your life up until the present. It isn’t a description of your history. So what are the core elements of a memoir and how should you get started writing yours?

1. Theme

A good memoir needs a theme. What do you want people to walk away with after reading it? Is there a lesson to be learned or a particular perspective to be gained? You may include many interesting stories and moments from your life, but they should all be consistent in supporting the theme or central idea of the memoir. Every event you write about should contribute to the overall message you want to get across to your readers.

2. Challenges

This relates closely to the theme of your memoir. As you think about the event or period of your life you want to write about, what obstacles did you have to overcome or what challenges did you face during that period of time? People love resolution and closure. Were you successful in reaching your goals or living your dreams? If not, how did you reconcile the hardships you had to endure or come to terms with hurtful individuals in your life?

3. Supporting Stories

Memories can be elusive and unclear, so talk to the people who know you well or were there during the period of time you are writing about. Ask them what they remember about you and past events. If you kept a diary or journal, go back and read it. Gather from your past the stories that will move your memoir forward and add richness to the narrative.

4. Emotional Beats

Emotion is powerful, and it engages your readers. You can make your narrative compelling by creating “beats” in your story. These are moments that keep the rhythm of the story going and grab the reader’s attention. Remember, your memoir is a vehicle for bringing your audience on a journey, not only a journey to know you, but a journey to discover themselves through your writing.

These emotional beats or elements are perhaps the closest to the core of your memoir.

How did you feel when certain events happened?

How did you react?

Were you devastated? Overjoyed? Flabbergasted?

What action did you take? What happened afterward?

These elements are at the core of every great memoir because they define who you were and are. They propel your story forward and keep your audience wanting more. The emotional beats help readers get glimpses into your personality and help them connect with you, putting them in touch with their own humanity.

5. Honesty

Readers of memoirs want authenticity. They want to have the raw, unvarnished truth, otherwise they would just read fiction. A memoir doesn’t have to be profound, heartbreaking, or brilliant; it just needs to be real. People read memoirs to gain new perspectives and take a journey in someone else’s shoes. They read to be inspired or to gain insights into issues they are facing in their own lives. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, to show your weaknesses, to reveal your questions and doubts. Be transparent, yet don’t fall into the trap of “poor me, pity me.”

Demonstrate how you were transformed. Draw your audience in.

6. Personality

Your story or theme may be common, it may be similar to other people’s experiences, but only you can tell it from your own unique perspective, a perspective that sparks insight and introspection. Your personality is not only reflected by the words you use, but in the way you lived through the moments you are writing about. You have a unique point of view that can touch hearts and lives. You will be able to influence certain individuals in ways that no one else can.

With these core elements in mind, let’s get started with your Memoir:

  • Choose your theme, time period, or event.
  • Define your purpose (inform, inspire, motivate, entertain…it’s okay to have more than one).
  • Gather your stories and supporting anecdotes.
  • Write down or record the memories of others connected to the events to have on hand as a reference.
  • Create an outline for your book. I love, love Lisa Cron’s Story Genius outline and Jennie Nash’s Inside Outline. 
  • Why did this happen? What did you do about it? And what did that do for or against your life goals?
  • Create smooth transitions between chapters.
  • Write your memoir with a narrative arc, like a novel. Show, don’t tell, as much as possible. Take readers on a journey.
  • End your memoir by tying up loose ends—bring resolution without being preachy.
  • Read other memoirs. Learn from other writers. Revise. Rinse. Repeat.

Your memoir is your story, your life, told from your firsthand experience and perspective. A Psychology Today article entitled “Why You Should Write Your Memoir”, confirms this; When you write a memoir, you are writing your version of what you think happened from your own perspective. Someone else might have another version, and years and years later your perception of an incident might eventually change.

While you won’t want to play fast and loose with the facts, remember that a memoir is an opportunity for your audience see life through your eyes and walk a mile in your shoes. Perspectives change over time as we learn and grow. And when that happens, it just may be the right time to write another memoir!

I can help you step into your life and your story. It’s not as difficult as it may seem to finish and share a book. You can contact me here if you want to find out how easy it to express who you are.

You can find more advice on writing, story craft, and facing and overcoming life’s daily challenges here on my blog.
News Media Interview Contact
Name: Kathryn Brown Ramsperger
Title: Author & Coach
Group: Ground One LLC
Dateline: North Bethesda, MD United States
Direct Phone: 301-503-5150
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