free the pen, a blog for writers

November 9, 2013

How Do You Find a Theme for Your Memoir?

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 3:30 pm

I often meet with people who ask me how they know what the theme of their memoir should be. This is not an easy question to answer because I haven’t lived the person’s life. On the surface we can reflect upon an experience that is significant enough or adventurous enough to share with others, but writing memoir requires more than just telling details of a story. We have all been bored listening to stories told by people who thought we should be as excited as they were about it but weren’t. It is the difference between watching someone’s vacation pictures from watching how a vacation inspired a person to make his own decision about living thus changing his way of thinking in order to overcome a death sentence from a cancer diagnosis. Memoirs must have a life-theme that inspires readers to want to take the journey with you. In other words, reading your memoir has to be a wise investment for them.

Answer this question: What do you want the reader to know about the story, that is, the story that runs a level deeper than the facts? Where is the point at which your experience became a turning point in your life? That turning point is where you can usually find the content of the theme. To only write here’s what happened to me is not enough. Everyone has a life in which things happen. What readers want to really know is what did you do about it, what did the road feel like for you, were you afraid or excited or disappointed. How did you navigate through it all and was it worth it. Most importantly readers hope you will tell them how they can get through it or enjoy it too. So whether the energy that carried you through a turning point in your life, be it survival or adventure, was inspiration, hope, faith, love, healing, or money, keep the theme steady and bring the ending to a place that readers will be able to hold onto so they can travel with you, searching as you search, being rewarded as you are rewarded, feeling life is worth it as you discover it for yourself.

Keep the pen moving,

Jan

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