2015 A to Z

Elements of Memoir

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? And what is memoir anyway? During the 2015 A to Z Challenge I will be answering some of your questions as well as offering some possible ideas you might consider in writing your own memoir story. I'd also like to hear some of your ideas about memoir in the comment section. Let's talk about memoir.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Parenting (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

        Parenting is one skill that none of us ever completely masters.  Books on how to be a good parent line book store shelves as those with children search for the best advice on how to do the parenting job correctly.   Is there any one correct way to be a parent?

         A memoir about being a parent has a great many possibilities since there are so many different stories out there.   A writer can tell about being a child of parents or the parent of a child.  There are even the story permutations of what their own parents experienced with their parents.   A memoir writer could spend a career discussing their experiences related to the world of parenting.

        As with any memoir topic, the parenting stories can be sheer entertaining fun or a serious look at bad parenting or the tragedies that even good parents sometimes face.  Think about your own experiences growing up.  Your parents had their theories and methodology concerning raising children.  Perhaps you envied a friend because they had parents who seemed so perfect.   No parents are perfect just as seemingly bad parents often mean well in their efforts.

        Your parenting stories might be similar to the stories that others tell or they might be completely different.   Think about your stories of having parents and being a parent.   What is it that others might find interesting?    How might others relate to your stories?   Start writing down your stories and see if the inspiration is there to write an interesting memoir about your own life experience in regard to parents and parenting.

         Do you have good memories about growing up?    Did your parents tell you stories about their own parents?    Was there a good friend that you had whose family made you feel like you were part of their's?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Old Age (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

         Old age is a natural part of life for those who are fortunate enough to make it that far.  It's a time when many stories of the past can be looked upon sometimes with a keen eye of accuracy or through a hazy view of fading memory.   The elderly can have a wealth of knowledge to share that can help you if you're writing a memoir.   Don't overlook that value as they will often remember the details that you might have missed.   Sharing memories is good for them as well.  Older folks can sometimes feel a bit neglected and welcome the time to share the stories they have stored away inside them.   Remembering can be good for the mind.   When spending time with your seniors you might be helping them as much as they can help you.

       As each of us grow older the time for writing memoir gets shorter and the call becomes more urgent.  It's never too early to start writing memoir and it's only too late when you're no longer around to write down those memories that may be forgotten to the ages if you haven't taken the time to record them.   Even if your memoirs are never published, the keepsake left to future generations is a thing of great value.   Keep your own memory sharp by writing memoir.   One day you may not have that memory to enjoy.

       Has anyone in your family written down their life memories?   Do you ever ask elders about what they remember about the past?    Is there any true value to the memories of the person who was never famous or a major historical figure?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Neighborhood (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

        There's not of a much better setting for memoir than the old neighborhood.   Such a great cast of characters with so many stories to tell.  You've got your friends, your enemies, the good neighbors, and the crotchety old meanies.   A neighborhood is a place with character filled with characters.

       Whether you lived in a distinguished old neighborhood or a vast tract of cookie cutter houses, each neighborhood has something special to offer your readers--something to which they maybe relate or a place where they could only dream of having lived.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, and everything else that made your neighborhood what is was can turn a memoir story into a rich tapestry of memory.

     There are many neighborhood stories you might draw upon.   You can tell the nostalgia stories of growing up, changing neighborhoods to become the new kid on the block, or leaving the neighborhood where you spent your childhood years.

        The neighborhood doesn't even have to be your own.  Your best memories may have come from the old neighborhood where your grandparents lived or your cousin's neighborhood where you spent your favorite summer.

         Your personal story is interwoven with the setting of your story.  Take the greatest advantage of your story's setting.   Make the neighborhoods come just as alive as the houses in that neighborhood and the people in the neighborhood.   Take the reader back to your neighborhood so they can get a better feel for why you were as you were.

        What was most special about the neighborhood where you grew up?   Was your neighborhood a place of great stability or one with a highly transient population?    Do you still live in or near the neighborhood where you lived in your younger days?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Memories (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge


      The term memoir as might be expected comes from the French mémoire which means memory. A memoir is in essence a particular memory or series of memories from a time of a person's life as opposed to an autobiography which covers an entire life or most of a life. The memoir is steeped in memories and the events, emotions, and reactions from others that relate to those memories.

     Memories are sometimes rather elusive and skewed when seen through the biased eyes of the one telling the story. Without journals or any aids from sources other than the memoirist's own mind, the memories are not always quite as remembered by others. This might work okay if balanced by some recollections of the ways others saw things, but if only relying upon the memory of the one telling the story then the faulty memories can lead to inaccurate story-telling.

     This consideration of the flawed story-telling can make the memoir an interesting perspective that is not quite accurate history. When composing a memoir the writer should engage in memory checks wherever possible though others who were present, reliable media accounts of the time covered, and any other resources that might test the accuracy of the story teller's memory.

      We know that memory can play tricks on us, deceiving us to believe the point of view that puts us in the most positive light if the story is about us. On the other hand, issues of low self esteem or other distorting factors can blow a story out of proportion to make things seem much worse than they were. Often our memory of what we think happened to us in the past is the story we have told ourselves for whatever purpose we are trying to achieve.  This is probably not the story we should tell in a memoir.

Do you think most of your memories of your own past are fairly accurate? Have you ever been told that things were not as bad in the past as you had thought they were? How far back can you remember with fairly assured accuracy?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Love (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

      Is there any more misused, misunderstood word than "love"?    So many stories related to love can be used in memoir.    We have love for family members, friends, children, spouses, and even love for possessions, places, concepts, or non-tangible things that probably should be associated with some term other than love.

       And yet we love ice cream, a favorite movie, or certain songs.    Love is everywhere and fills up our lives.  This doesn't even cover people who have loved us or at least thought they loved us.  Entire memoirs can deal with the subject of love or love lost.  The stories of love can be happy or sad or even analytical or angry.

        Why do we love?   Who do we love?   The stories are many and many of those stories are very interesting.   If the story is interesting then it might be worth telling in a memoir.

         Do you have a first love whom you have never seen again since that earlier time?   Have you had a tragic or hurtful break-up with someone you loved or thought you loved?     Is there a long-lasting thick and thin type love story that you have to tell?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Keepsakes (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

      Most of us have a least a few keepsakes from our past.   These items might have sentimental value attached to a time, a place, or a special person.  Some keepsakes can even become valuable collectors items.

       My keepsakes include a few knickknacks, postcards, letters, and paper items such as brochures.  There are a few that I have on display while most are stored away in boxes or storage drawers.  Those who might be unaware of the personal value these keepsakes have for me might consider my accumulation clutter, but they are important to me.

       Some of the things that I've kept I can hold in my hands and look at to take me to a time in my past.  Rarely do I run across any of my kept items and forget where it came from or why I have it.  After I've left this earth perhaps my children will discard these items as junk.  After all, little of any of it actually has much if any monetary value.

       We tend to keep things for the memories that we attach to them.   These memories can be important when writing memoir.   Undoubtedly there will be times in the future where I'll dig out old items that I've hung onto and let the memories prompt my writing.   Keepsakes can have great value to us individually yet seem meaningless to the unknowing person who sees them as something merely to throw away.

        Do you have a special place where you keep things of personal sentimental value?    What kinds of things do you have that you would call "keepsakes"?    Have you made any provision for your keepsakes after you've left this earth?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Journaling (Elements of Memoir)

       Anyone who is contemplating writing a memoir someday would be wise to consider keeping a journal.   Those journal entries sure can be a big help when trying to recall details of the past.  In fact keeping a journal is not a bad idea for anyone whether planning a memoir or not.

       There are many types of journals and a wide variety of information that can be recorded in the journals.  In the past I've kept journals regarding my expenditures, my vehicle, and even detailing data for a potential legal situation.  For many years I kept a very intricate dream journal which I still have after some 40 years.  Someday I might want to use some of those dreams in my writing.

       Otherwise I've done a poor job of keeping a journal that recorded my daily life events and now I regret not having something of this nature to which to refer when writing my memoirs.   Once during a lengthy trip when I was on summer break after my first year of college I did keep a very detailed journal.   Unfortunately several years later it was stolen with a number of my other belongings in a vehicle break-in.  I've long lamented having lost that journal not to mention the other items that were stolen.

        Hopefully no one will never steal a journal that you've kept, but even if you do lose a journal the act of having kept it can make memories keener.   Perhaps one day I'll start another journal.  In the meantime let me recommend that you do as I say and not as I have done.

         Do you keep any sorts of journals?    Have you ever lost or destroyed a journal that you had maintained at some point in your life?    What type of information do you think you would want to record if you kept a journal?