The Personal Memoir

---Graphic Organizers---
---Moment In Time ---
---Chronological Order ---
---Rule of "So What?"---
---"Movie Behind the Eyes"---
---The Right Words---
---Adding Senses---
---Thoughts & Feelings---
---Narrative Leads---
---Give Writing a Try---

Class Definition

A memoir is a personal account of a true experience that has had an impact on your life (significant and/or life changing). In a memoir, you tell more than what happened, you also tell what you were thinking and feeling at the time.
Remember, a memoir focuses on the importance of the experience in your life.

Qualities of Memoir

  • It is a snapshot in time - it focuses on a moment in time
  • Background information is woven into the story (the who, what, when, where, why)
  • It is told in chronological order (First, next, last)
  • There is a "So What?" - tells about a significant and/or life changing moment in time. (true significance can often be found during the writing process)
  • It has lots of "I" - the story is told from the memoirists perspective.
  • It has a balance of "Show and Tell" - the author slows down the most important parts by "Showing" it to the reader (Movie Behind the Eyes)
  • It has "Thoughts and Feelings" - the reader is allowed to see what the author feels and thinks, this often helps with the "show"
  • It has "active verbs", "precise nouns", adverbs and adjectives to create "the movie behind the eyes". Authors also make use of figurative language like similes and metaphors.
  • Some authors use flashbacks.
  • Sometimes additional details are invented to help with the telling of the story but the important facts are true.
  • The lead brings the reader right into the action.
  • The conclusion is purposeful.

  • some ideas/terminology adapted from Nanci Atwell's Lessons that Change Writer's

Graphic Organizers

Editable - Microsoft Word
Graphic Organizer - Memoir

Graphic Organizer - Memoir Large

Graphic Organizer - Comic Strip for Memoir

Graphic Organizer - Memoir

Graphic Organizer - Large

Graphic Organizer - Comic Strip for Memoir

Questions to Ask Yourself
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Beginnings (Prewrite & Draft)

Start by writing down your ideas, picking a "moment in time" and then putting your ideas into sentences.

Author's Purpose: Rule of "So What?"
As you read through your drafts ask your self, have I made it clear to my reader why this memory is so important or significant. Two great places to let your reader know this is either in the Narrative Lead or the conclusion of your memoir.

Ideas: A "Moment in Time"
As you read through your draft ask yourself is this a "moment in time", a snapshot. Remember we talked about focusing in on the moment as if a photograph had been taken at the moment the memory was made. If there is import information the audience needs to know about what led to that moment we can briefly tell them but the focus is to be on the moment that was significant and/or life changing.

Organization: Chronological Order
The events of the memory need to be told in the order that they happened - first, then, finally. As you read through your draft check to be sure that you have written it with this in mind (using your graphic organizer to write should have kept you on the right track).

Next Steps (Revision Time)

Add Detail ~ Explode the Moment

Adding detail to make your writing interesting for your reader. Here are several ways authors "Explode the Moment" to help their reader feel like they are right there with them.

Word Choice: The Right Words
Your job is to create a picture with words so make use of precise nouns (instead of the ocean, say Bay of Fundy at Alma), use strong verbs (verbs that show action and carry feeling - intend of "ran" try "scurried"), and vivid modifiers (adjectives & adverbs). Don't forget, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so use the right words and don't forget figurative language like metaphors and similes. For example instead of saying "I was so cold", say "I felt like a block of ice".
Using Powerful (Triple Threat) Verbs

The "Rule of Thoughts and Feelings"
Since a memoir is your own personal memory don't forgot to allow the reader to know what you think and feel about what is happening. By allowing the reader to do this, the author, you, allow him/her to get to know you, to feel what you feel and understand what is going on in your head. It is like getting to know a new friend. Take a look at these vides.

"The Movie Behind the Eye"
It is important to create for the reader, the full picture of what is happening in your memoir. As you revise find the most important part of the memory and slow down the action by showing rather then telling what is happening - "Create the Movie behind the Eye". Do this by adding just the right amount of "show don't tell" words, phrases, and sentences. When you do this you allow your reader to see what you see and hear what you hear. In other words, "be there" with you.
Descriptive Writing In Simple Terms (Youtube Video)

Adding Senses
Having problems with identifying what you heard, felt, saw, etc. or how to add this information to your memory? Take a look at this following link.
Writing the Senses

Openings and Closings

Narrative Leads
The purpose of a narrative lead is to invite the reader into your story. There are different ways you can do this. In class we have talked about and begun to practice the action lead and the reaction lead.
  • Action Leads focus on the actions of the main character; the reader sees the main character in action (in the case of a memoir, you are the main character)
  • Reaction Leads focus on the thoughts of the main character (in a memoir, your thoughts)

Conclusions/ Final Thoughts
A good way to end a memoir is to sum up what happened and let the reader know what you learned or why the memory is so important to you. (was it the first time? something painful? a family event? a dream come true? ...)

Having Trouble with Paragraphing

Check out these PowerPoints

Give Writing a Try

Write It: Memoir - from

Writing in First Person

Brainstorm: I Will Always Remember
Brainstorm: Memoirs from LifeBrainstorm: Memoirs from Photography


Modeling Memoirs Writing the Senses Mapping Memories

Response (Review)
Handling Feedback
Seeing Your Memoir Through New Eyes
Sandwich Critique

10 Ways to Revise a Memoir
Perspective Is Everything

Editing & Revising
Language Arts Survival Guide
Punctuation Survival Guide
Reality Grammar: Understanding Sentence Structure



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