A Strong Memoir Conveys Struggle, Triumph

Many of our members who talk to us about writing their memoirs have been through some very rough times. It’s a relief for them to spill it out by writing, and some hope that perhaps a movie will be made about their life and the way they survived their hardship. Continuing with our series of reviewing celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing short stories, we’re up to the sixth rule, and this one is a good fit for writing memoirs:

Rule 6: Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Applying this fiction-writing rule to non-fiction, you do not have to invent your troubled times, because you’ve lived them! Even if you’ve had a relatively easy life, no one escapes some difficulties. The chapters that deal with those episodes may end up being the most compelling parts of your autobiography. They also may be the most challenging for you to write. Recounting your darkest days will provide the opportunity for you to demonstrate, as Vonnegut says, what you’re “made of.??? Misfortune tests your mettle; what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Whether your life story centers on your triumph over adversity or includes only a couple of sad experiences, use those accounts to keep your readers interested and put a yardstick to your personal growth during your lifetime.