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Exercises in memoir: finding your story

We all have a story to tell. Some of us have several. So how do you discover your real story? In memoir, it’s important to sift through the events of your life to discover what’s important.

Below are a few exercises that helped me find the core of my story:

  1. Set your timer for 15 minutes and write 10 sentences that begin with the words, “I remember….” The sentences don’t have to be related, just write, try not to think too much, just let the words flow. When you’re done, read through your list and see if there’s anything that stands out or feels the most honest. Usually, these lines appear later in the list.
  2. Set your timer for another 15 minutes and write 10 sentences that begin with the words “I don’t remember….” See what this brings you. Anything here you didn’t expect?
  3. Set your timer for 5 minutes for each of these questions. Do it several times over the course of writing your memoir:
  • What is the question in your own mind that hasn’t been answered yet?
  • What would you never write about from your life?
  • What are you obsessed with?
  • What is your triggering event? (What has changed you?)

Not writing memoir? That’s okay—get in the head of one of your characters and have them answer these questions. Asking questions is a great way to get to know yourself and your characters better.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great ideas! I’m writing a memoir of someone else, based on what he told me, what I learned from research and what others told me about him. I’m having some trouble working through it, so this blog post is very helpful.

    October 28, 2011
  2. Great idea, I could see applying these questions to your ancestors, to write family history.

    October 30, 2011

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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