Memoir Writing: Everyday Drama

After James Frey‘s memoir, A Million Little Pieces, received some negative PR on Oprah and other places, memoirs fell from favor.

Guess what? Memoir writing is becoming popular again. In fact, one of our local colleges asked me to teach a class on it this fall because they’ve had so much interest in the topic.

While we all have stories to tell, what makes anyone think his or her life is so exciting people will want to read about it?

Perhaps it’s how everyday drama gets played out in our lives and in our observations.  Some of us see the incidents that comprise life as just moments. Others see those incidents as more and are able to create interesting stories based on life’s incidents.

When writing memoir, you need to see yourself as the protagonist rather than in a supporting role. After all, it’s your life and you should be the star.

Too often we’re reluctant to write about life from our perspective in case a loved one wouldn’t approve. For example, my mother died of ovarian cancer when she was 42. My father was 15 years older (57 at the time) than her and never expected to lose his young wife (they were married 22 years).

He couldn’t abide being alone, so at age 58, he began courting younger women and even got into a Harley Davidson motorcycle club to enhance his image with women in their thirties and early forties.

He saw that life as his new normal and no one in the family said anything to him about his new lifestyle. When he passed at age 91, the stories started coming out about him and his women and his visits to his relatives over the years.

Why didn’t these stories come out when he was still with us so he could share his side of them and make them even more interesting? Everyone had thought the family wouldn’t approve so no one said anything.

In fact, just the opposite happened. Over the past five years we’ve had several family gatherings and enjoyed talking about Dad and his women and how he never found anyone like Mom, but that didn’t stop him from looking.

He was a common man living a common life, yet his everyday drama made  for good storytelling.

How about you? What incidents create your life? Is it time you captured them by writing your memoir instead of fearing someone in the family won’t approve? It could be.

Happy writing!


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