By: Kimberly Flowers, Chief Development Officer,
All of us need seniors to share their stories. A wealth of wisdom and wit resides inside the memories of every senior, and these are not treasures to be lost. Families need to have stories that can be remembered to provide a context for family values and history. Seniors themselves can assign meaning to the legacy of their lives by writing from their own perspective. So let me ask you: Have you ever felt the need to reach deep down into your past, across the chasm of memories and retrieve a glimmer of your life? The memories pour out as you start to write authentically and vividly either on your laptop or on paper. For more detailed information on Memoir Writing, I suggest doing some research. I started with Memoir Writing for Dummiesby Ryan G. Van Cleave PhD. You may also consider attending a writer’s conference to connect with people who love to tell stories.
The important thing is to start. Here is the best news: Don’t try to start at the beginning. Start with a memory that keeps surfacing, or that became a turning point in your life. As you concentrate on telling this story, your mind will go further and further into memories of people, places and events from before and after that point. Keep a list of these, because you will come back to them. But first go back to that pivotal story and make it interesting on its own. Here are some tips to help:
Limit what’s included.a memoir focuses on parts or specific elements of a life, whereas an autobiography includes everything about a life, from birth to death.
Be truthful. There is no need to embellish or exaggerate.
Use narrative elements.Tell the story with detail and emotion. Think about all five of your senses, and help the reader feel like you are talking directly to them.
Show desire.When the main character of the story desperately wants something, the story becomes interesting. Be specific and clear about what your main character wants, and your readers will want to continue reading.
Have conflict or adversity. No one has a perfect life, or even a perfect day. In fact, when a character can’t get what they want or faces some type of hardship that is when the story gets interesting. Tell that story for a strong memoir.
Tell Your Story
Telling your story in human terms from your real point of view is necessary to connect with your reader. Do you want the structure of your story to be chronological, starting from the beginning to the end? Sometime stories that start at the end or even in the middle keep things interesting. Ask yourself what message or lesson do you want to share with the world. This will help you decide the type of structure that fits your personal style.
Establishing the setting and scene makes the memory from the past come to life. Your reader can magically create that moment in their mind. Beyond the physical area, also include social and cultural forces. Are there background noises or smells in the air? Are you indoors or outdoors, is it hot or cold? These elements and many more will draw a picture for the reader.
To make the characters in your story memorable think about what you can convey that will express a good sense of who they are and what they mean to you. You might pick from their physical appearance, personality, IQ and schooling, talents, skills, and gifts, shortcomings and flaws, mannerisms and tics, main goals, secondary goals, fears, secrets, etc. These elements help your reader develop the same emotional attachment to the character that you have.
Don’t worry about the words or sentences at first. Just write what comes. Then you can go back and smooth out the rough edges and polish up the grammar. As you relive your past moment by moment, you will see a story take shape and grow into something that is a message of love, kindness, compassion, humility and humanity. That is a memoir. You don’t have to be a well-educated person of letters or an expert in grammar. You just have to start. Perhaps the time is now.