Where to Begin
It would make sense to say that the easiest way to begin your memory stories is to start at the beginning. This may seem like a good choice, but it’s not the only one. Many begin with a relatable circumstance, i.e.; Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. Her account of her parents and grandparent’s lives begins with this sentence, “those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” The sentence is short, but immediately draws you in. It’s a specific memory and leaves the reader to wonder, what kind of trouble is coming.
Here’s another: “I’m scared. My feet are cold and my stomach cries for food.” This leaves the reader asking, “why is this person scared? Why is this person so cold and hungry?” The questions are answered quickly in, Dave Pelzer’s, A Man Named Dave.
If you think about it, many of your favorite movies sometimes begin this way. They start at a point which seems as if they're halfway through the story. Why? Because it's human nature. We immediately need to how the characters got to that point, what led them to that particular situation, what is the backstory?
That's called a hook. Hook your reader, lure them in, keep them turning the pages. And using a scene that brings immediate feelings and thoughts as well as images, is a great way to do that.
When writing a memory story, the first thing you want to do is focus on who or what you want the memory to be about and your interactions with that person. These feelings and thoughts will tie you to that person in your memory.
Because I'm sure there are many people in your life that are worthy of a place in your memoir, I’ve devised a simple exercise that might help you along.
1) Draw a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper. Within that circle, write your name.
2) Then extending from that initial circle, draw lines with other circles attached to those lines.
3) Placed within those other circles write in the names of people who have been a part of your life, people who have touched you or made a difference in your life in one way or another.
3) Pick one of those names and the first memory that comes to mind of that person is the one you should write about. Why? Because that particular memory is the strongest (it must be, because when you think of the person, that one is the most vivid in your mind). That particular memory is the one you'll recall the most details about. That memory is the one that will stick in you reader's minds as well, because it will be sharp and focused.
This pattern can continue endlessly with the people who have come in and out of your life, each person owning a special part of your life. By doing this exercise you’ve created a, circle of friends and family, that have impacted your life in one way or another.
You’ve brought your memory stories into focus for the reader. Make sense? Give it a try.
I welcome all comment and suggestions.
To read my own memory stories...click the Books tab.