How Not to Write a Memoir

Remember the old joke about how to carve an elephant out of a block of wood?  Carve away everything that isn’t an elephant? Well, you do just the opposite when writing your memoirs. Assemble everything  you know about writing a memoir, carve away all the bits that don’t seem to fit, throw out the memoir and use the leftovers to tell your story.

No dreary droning on about where you were born, when you were born or why.  No one really cares whether you hate oatmeal, or got Ds in arithmetic for 9 months straight back in the 5th grade.  No one even knows what arithmetic is anymore.

Your future readers want the juicy details, the dirt, the nitty-gritty about your first date, your first unchaperoned party and how you learned all those naughty words.  How about the time you laughed so hard at your cousin’s wedding, champagne came out your nose and sprayed not only your new dress but two bridesmaids, too?  Ruined their hairdos and your aunt’s disposition.

People want to know the person they think is the real you.  So, you’ve always been an upright, uptight proper lady or gentleman; Big Deal!  Nobody will believe that, so fib a little. Anyone can write about their perfect Sunday School attendance, their perfect lemon pies, their perfect husbands, wives, children.

Tell them about the time you were asked to drop out of the P.T.A. after you laced the CRYSTAL-LITE at the Teachers’ Tea.  Remind them that the teachers loved it.

Write about taking a flash camera out behind the barn the night the guys drank too much beer on the Hay Ride–and you waited until the next day to tell them there was no film in the camera.

You could mention the…well, some things are better left unsaid. People don’t need to know everything, but you get the idea.

Think about celebrity memoirs.  Ever read a boring one?  Do you think those glamorous creatures have really done all the crazy things they write about?  The wild parties, the secret hideaways, the other Big Names? Come to think of it, they probably have. Their stories really could be true.

But true or not, your own memoir can be just as fun and interesting.  All it takes is a little imagination and some judicious carving.


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