Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Diane Johnson. Please read more about Diane in the footer.
Memoirs are a very popular form of writing. When people can read a compelling story about your life and know that what you are telling them the truth—that these things actually happened—it adds another level of emotional connection between you and the reader.
Even if you just want to write about your life to family, friends, and posterity, and have no dreams of becoming a best-selling author, you’ll still want to craft a good narrative that will be both entertaining and informative to your readers. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your memoir, give these ideas a try to see if they are the right form of memoir for you.
1. Overcoming Challenges
Readers love to hear about people who have overcome great obstacles in their lives and have come out better people as a result. These types of stories are uplifting and make people feel good about the world and about the power of the human spirit.
For example, have you ever had to overcome a disability, racism, economic status, or an unfair social stigma? But overcoming challenges can be emotional as well, like beating depression, escaping the cycle of child abuse, or coming through a difficult marriage.
2. Funny Stories
There’s a reason that David Sedaris is so popular; he is able to look back at his life and experiences and talk about them in a way this is both humorous and poignant. Sedaris is able to make people laugh not because his life has been extra ordinarily funny, but because he is able to look at his life through a humorous lens.
If you’re looking for inspiration, look back at your life and think about funny things that have happened to you or things that could be considered humorous to others. Maybe your unique vision of the world and the wacky things that have happened to you could put a smile on your readers’ faces.
3. Harrowing Tales
Like stories about overcoming challenges, harrowing tales can fill your readers with excitement and a lust for life. For example, if you have served in the military during war, or if you have traveled abroad doing humanitarian aid work, you could have some interesting stories that people would want to hear about.
For example, Aaron Ralston was hiking alone in a Utah Canyon when his arm got pinned under a boulder. He spent the next five days trying to free himself and finally resorted to cutting off his own arm. Ralston wrote about his experience and became a bestselling author whose book has been made in a movie. If you have a tale of bravery, heroism, or survival in your past, maybe it’s time to set it down on paper.
Overall, writing a memoir is about conveying your experiences and emotions to others. As long as you can tell your readers about your life with compelling prose, you’ll have done a great job.