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Effective Memoirs. How to expand your idea/story so that it fits the criteria of a memoir. The lead brings readers right into the action of the story rather than being an introductory paragraph of facts.

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Effective memoirs

Effective Memoirs

How to expand your idea/story so that it fits the criteria of a memoir


  • The lead brings readers right into the action of the story rather than being an introductory paragraph of facts.

    Example: I looked over at my clock. It said four o’clock in the morning. I waited for my mother to come get me. Dad was going to work and it was time for breakfast. I thought about what I was going to eat…

    Re-write this paragraph to make it an effective lead.


The lead brings the reader right into the action of the story

2 rather than being an introductory paragraph of facts.nd example:

“Squeeaak!” I bolted upright, eyes scrambling to focus in the dim early morning light. My heart was thudding, and I slowly let out a deep breath, willing myself to calm down. Suddenly I remembered what day it was…

The lead brings the reader right into the action of the story


There s a lot of personality showing the writer s thoughts feelings and observations

Example: Josh stood tall on the thin and delicate branches. SNAP! The branch had broken directly under my brother’s feet. He tumbled to the ground. Dad raced to his side and nervously asked if he was ok. I looked at my brother. My eyes locked on his leg. I pointed my shaking finger directly at the hole in my brother’s leg. A root had gone into the side of his knee.

Re-write showing thoughts, feelings, and observations of the writer.

There’s a lot of personality showing the writer’s thoughts, feelings, and observations.


There s a lot of personality showing the writer s thoughts feelings and observations1

Example: I could not bear to look as Josh balanced precariously on the thin branch above my head. SNAP! I watched in horror as my brother’s body raced toward the ground, hitting it with a sickening crunch. I couldn’t breathe. Frozen in fear I watched my father run to his side. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I lifted my arm as in a stupor and pointed my shaking finger to where blood was seeping from a wound in my brother’s leg. I felt faint as I realized that a branch had been driven into the side of his knee.

There’s a lot of personality showing the writer’s thoughts, feelings, and observations.


The pace is slowed down readers can make a movie in their minds

Example: The doctor handed me my son and held him close. Then the nurse took him and put him in the crib. I watched them wheel the crib down the hall, with my baby boy inside. I had to go pack for the long trip to be with him. When I was ready I got in the car and headed to the airport. After the short flight, I took a taxi to the hospital and waited for him to come out of surgery.

Re-write this paragraph with a slower pace and more details so that readers can visualize what happens.

The pace is slowed down: readers can make a movie in their minds


The pace is slowed down readers can make a movie in their minds1

Example: I looked into the deep brown eyes of my new baby boy. I could feel his weight and warmth; he was light in my arms. I could not believe they had to take him away from me. When the nurse reached out for him I hesitated.

“I’m not ready,” I managed to whisper. I could see the sympathy in her eyes.

“The helicopter is waiting. We’ve got to go.” She took my son and placed him back in the crib. My arms felt empty as I watched them roll his bed out the EXIT door. I knew I should be packing so I could get to the IWk and see him again. But I was immobile, hot tears splashing onto the cold, hard hospital floor.

The pace is slowed down: readers can make a movie in their minds


Example: I was there to greet my son as he came out of surgery. He was in an incubator hooked up to 5 needles and a feeding tube. It was so scary. I wasn’t even allowed to hold him. I could reach in and touch his tiny hands and feet. I ached to hold him in my arms and rock him to sleep.

Brainstorm what significance or meaning this experience might have had for me.

There’s a So what?: a meaning or significance that was discovered by the memoirist during the act of writing the memoir


I looked at my helpless infant son in the incubator.He was hooked up to needles and a feeding tube and I was not able to hold him. My arms ached at the loss. This was not what I had planned for my second-born. I felt torn with guilt at leaving my oldest child behind in New Brunswick. He had been expecting to gain a baby brother and instead he was without both his parents. It wasn’t fair.!Suddenly lights were blinking and monitors beeping. White-coated nurses went running to the crib beside my son. I watched them work on an infant that fit into the palm of their hand. In that moment of panic, I looked at my sturdy, 9 lb. baby boy and realized how fortunate I was. I had been feeling sorry for myself when I should be feeling thankful. My son would have a full recovery. I just had to get through the next few months.

There’s a So what?: a meaning or significance that was discovered by the memoirist during the act of writing the memoir


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