Personal Memoirs Writing –Stories about Events

2010 September 27

Events & Experiences

As you set out to write your personal memoirs or life story most likely it is the events in your memoir which willtake a great deal of your focus.

It is at this point you will need to re-evaluate your purpose for writing and you may wish to read an earlier poston why motivation is everything for Personal memoir Writing Just what is the story you wish to tell? What are the events which have had the most influence on your life storyand what part did those events have to play in your overall development or the personal memoir you wish to tell?

In this personal memoirs training video Oral Historian Greg Lawrence outlines ways you can begin to recall the events in your life story that you may wish to include in your memoir. He discusses the inclusion of life events, thoughts and beliefs and how to use memory prompts to recall events.

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When you are preparing your thoughts write down as many events as possible which played a part in the story you wish to tell.  Who was present at the time and what was their involvement in the event? One of the earlier videos in this series, Personal memoirs – Stories About People will help you formulate your thoughts on the people who played a part in the events you wish to write about.

Note down the really important events in your story but don’t forget the little ones either. The little events that will add colour to your personal memoir and add depth and context for your reader. Keep in mind that your reader has a different set of experiences to your own and it is often the little things providing the context which will allow them to relate more quickly of in more depth to the life story you are telling.

What were your feelings about the important events of your life story?

When you are preparing to write the notes that you are making can be considered ‘fuelling up”. You are adding gas to your writing tank and it is at this stage it’s your outline notes, the raw fuel, which you are interested in.  The more “fuel” you can add to your tank at this point the easier it will become when you actually sit down to write your story. Don’t worry about the details in the early stages, those can come later.

A list of 10 life event prompts you might find useful:

  • An event in or about a place you lived in?
  • Something involving a favourite Aunt or Uncle, your Mother or Father?
  • Something from your working life?
  • A remembrance about a child?
  • A sporting or cultural achievement.
  • Your personal triumphs and tragedies.
  • A major crisis.
  • A travel experience.
  • A turning point in your personal life philosophy.
  • When a climatic event impacted on you or your family.

Think about the major events that occurred during your life and what surrounded them. What was happening at the time in the wider community, locally, nationally and internationally? Did these events impact on you in any way? What did you think about them?
Anything can trigger a memory and once you start you will find that one thought leads to another.
The Importance of Thoughts & Beliefs

In your personal memoirs what were the major issues of the time? Did they have any particular impact on you oryour story?

If you find that you can easily remember a major issue or event then it probably is worth examining it for an impact or an influence on your own personal belief system and considering its relevance to the story you are telling.  Your readers would like to know you on more than a surface level and therefore any strong beliefs or influences on your development are likely to be of interest.

For example do you hold strong religious beliefs? How did they develop and come about?

Were you influenced by any international conflicts? Either as a person directly involved or as a person who developed a strong belief either for or against your nation’s involvement. What influence did these events have on developing your personal philosophy? How you came to have the belief system you have is often of great relevance to the personal memoir you are telling.

Memory Prompts

When writing personal memoirs or a life story the memory prompts you can use can include anything and everything. The most important thing you can do is to constantly keep a small notebook with you just to jot down the memory fragments as they surface. Think of your memory as a filing cabinet. A filing cabinet where, as you progress  through life, you keep adding things to the front and where your older memories are constantly being pushed to the back. It’s difficult to see everything when you first open the cabinet.

Your memories are still there it’s just they have over time become clouded with the sheer volume of them and you need a way of systematic rediscovery. The mind is a wonderful thing and connects memories in ways which constantly surprise us. In order to tap into those memories you can use a series of memory prompts to help you.
Useful Memory Prompts you can use include:

  • Photos.
  • Diaries or Journals.
  • Family Treasures.
  • Old Letters & Papers.
  • A reunion with family, old friends or past work colleagues.
  • A recipe book.
  • An old résumé or CVs can prompt memories.
  • Talk with friends or family about an event, person or place you want to include.

Keep your notebook with you and as you look through a selection or old photos or talk with family or friends make a note of any memory that resurfaces so that you can later come back to it and use that memory as a starting point in your own memory filing cabinet. You will find that once you can grasp the edge of an old memory other ways of teasing that memory out into full light will readily present themselves to you.

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