While writing my memoir, I found that a timeline of key events in my characters’ lives helped me excavate memories and find context. I recently added another element to my timeline that has helped me advance the emotional beats of the story as I revise. And it works for fiction as well as memoir.
Because writers must go beyond the events of a story or life to include the meaning behind the memories, I realized that a key part of a timeline could include notes about the significance, emotion, and outcomes of character milestones.
As part of my timeline, I list ages and family milestones: births, deaths, major illnesses, turning points, and historical events. The new addition of emotion and meaning behind those events helped me find more opportunities to add conflict and resolution to my scenes. Read more
Pulling a cohesive thread out of the chaos of a life can be challenging. The sooner you can figure out what slice of your life you want to write about, the sooner you will be able to focus on the most relevant events for your memoir and their meaning.
Start with these four areas of reflection:
Turning points – What were key moments that brought major and minor changes? Some of these can be parents divorcing, the death of a loved one, or struggles by another family member that changed how you look at or experience life. Read more
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:
- 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. Read more