Memoirs are personal. As a memoir writer, you give readers a glimpse into your private life in the book. Although it is about you, it has to be built around universal themes that others can relate to. The things we experience in life might be unique to us, but our emotions and reactions to those experiences are often universal. When writing a memoir, you have to be aware of the universal themes you are building your story around.
My memoir is a collection of essays that aren’t in chronological order. The way my memoir is structured, it is even more important for me to have strong universal themes tying all of the essays together.
The big question is, how do you sift through your entire eventful life to find (a) common universal theme(s) for your memoir that will engross your readers?
Write, write, write. The more essays you write about your life, the more themes you will see emerging from your writing. I realized which themes I was most comfortable with and inclined to write about once I had a few essays under my belt.
If you are older or have experienced many things in your life at a young age, it is best to pick one part of your life to build the memoir around. Make your memoir an exploration of your life based around that one significant moment/experience/person/etc. That way you will have a focus for the universal theme(s) of your memoir.
Tell your story out loud to others. Talking about the part of your life you want to write about in the memoir will help you figure out what the main themes in your story are based on what peaks your listener’s interest.
Don’t start with a rigid theme/structure in mind. It helps to have a general idea of where you want to go with your memoir but don’t be rigid about the direction before you start writing. That will make your process more analytical and less authentic. Let your writing show you the way.
A universal theme helps connect your readers to you on a level beyond your specific experiences. For this reason, it is important to be able to see and analyze your life beyond your personal situations. I’ve said this before in multiple blogs but writing a memoir is like going to a therapist. You have to be able to dig deep.
These are a few strategies that have helped me become clearer over time about what the universal themes in my memoir are and how to make sure they are consistent through all parts of the book. I hope you found this useful!
Thank you to those of you who have been taking the time to share your experiences and advice with me on these blogs and on social media. You all keep me motivated to keep writing.
Please share your experiences with me in the comments below on how you were able to find (a) strong universal theme(s) for your memoir because I am always looking to improve my writing process!
Next week’s blog is about the editing/revising part of my writing process. Until then…
Happy Writing! :)
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