Are you stuck in your writing? Have you started writing your memoir but now find you aren’t exactly sure how to get the best version of your story out on the page? This is a place familiar to many writers and a reason why memoir writing prompts can be such useful tools.
A memoir isn’t just a whimsical collection of anecdotes from a person’s life. If you want to reach your potential readers then you need to affect them in profound ways.
You need to change how they think about their lives.
How do successful memoir writers create memorable works? The answer is simple: they get deep. They don’t simply relay a story from the subject’s life. They reconstruct crucial moments by creating vivid, memorable scenes drawn out of memory.
Why Use Memoir Writing Prompts?
You’ve probably read that writing can be quite a difficult pursuit. That sentiment rings true even for the most seasoned and successful professionals. When we think about writing our own stories (those where the events take place in our lives) the process can seem deceptively easy.
If it happened to you, it should come to us intuitively, right?
In a few rare instances, using our own lives as source material makes for easy writing. In a majority of situations however, I have found that personal connection to the source material provides more of a challenge.
Things get in the way. Time blurs the image. Perspectives change. Trauma resonates.
As a professional writer, I think it’s important to have a few tricks and tools up your sleeve. When I’m working with a memoir client, I use writing prompts. They provide a neutral place where we can start from.
The List Of My 31 Favorite Prompts
Memoir writing prompts help shake the memory free. Ask yourself a few of these questions to start exploring your memories and feelings about the past. These can help you take a big step forward in getting your story down.
- What is your earliest memory?
- Was there anything strange or unusual about your birth?
- Do you have any siblings? What are their names?
- Describe your home town to someone that has never been there before.
- Were you close with your parents?
- When you were young, what did your parents do for a living?
- What do you remember about your parent’s relationship? Were they together?
- What is your happiest childhood memory?
- Did you have pets growing up?
- What did you remember wanting to be when you grew up?
- Who were your childhood heroes?
- What was your early relationship to religion? Has that relationship changed over the years?
- Who was your best friend growing up? Tell the story of how you became friends?
- Describe your grade school experience.
- What social groups did you fit into while you were in school?
- What was your favorite subject while in school?
- Describe your first “crush”.
- What were your adolescent challenges?
- Who was your first love?
- When did you finally leave your parent’s home?
- Have you had the opportunity to travel?
- What was your first paying job? What do you remember most about it?
- How did you spend your money as a kid?
- Looking back, what “normal” thing now seems a little messed up?
- Do you have children of your own?
- Talk about a time you felt alone. Talk about a time you felt particularly loved.
- Do you have a “lost love”? If so, talk about your relationship and what caused you to separate.
- What has been the greatest challenge in your life so far?
- Talk about a person from your past, alive or dead, that you would love to see again.
- What is unique about your family?
- What is something you learned later in life that you wish you knew as a young person?
Those are just a few of many! There are so many more prompts you could use to get started. If your personal exploration leads you to new memoir writing prompts, start building your own list.
Memoir Writing Prompts: What Now?
Choose whichever question you think will get you started. If you’re working on a memoir about your childhood, it may help to do some exploratory writing about early heroes. Even if your memoir isn’t about your heroes, the act of thinking creatively in those terms will almost certainly move your process along.
Remember that there is no right way to answer these prompts. You’re not necessarily writing for your memoir. The writing you do here is more like thinking on the page, or journaling, an exercise that gets your process started.
Writing memoir is all about exploring the past in a creative way. Memory can be very tricky. Look at your story in a unique light by using these prompts to bring it to the surface.
I hope this blog addressed some of your needs with these memoir writing prompts. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
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