Ideas for Memoir Structure

For many memoir authors, their life story isn’t their first stab at creating some form of art. When those authors decide to write a memoir, it’s natural for them to want to include their other artform. So let’s say you’ve written poetry all your life, or you have a file of newspaper clippings of your op-eds published in your local paper. Maybe you’re a painter or even a composer. Perhaps you have a file full of your essays or you’ve kept a list of favorite quotes by other people. Today, even tweets or Facebook posts could be considered a body of work. Can you incorporate your work or favorites into your memoir? Yes, of course you can.

“Most memoirs read like a book, chapter by chapter with some photos added somewhere,” writes Nancy Julien Kopp in her review of the memoir Wingin’ It Beyond the Veil by Joan Breit. “Ms Breit’s book offers a series of vignettes that give us a slice of her life at a time. Between the vignettes, she has included scripture verses, poetry (both her own and others) and photos. I found all that is included to be delightful and I thoroughly enjoyed piecing her life together via the individual vignettes.”

If you’re a photographer—professional or hobbyist—it’s obvious to picture how you can use your work in your memoir. But through photography you also can share with readers your paintings or a page of musical staff from a song. You can begin each chapter with a pertinent piece of your past writing. You can pepper your memoir with lines of your poems. Sharing yourself as a creatively multifaceted person will bring readers closer to who you feel you are, which is exactly what you want your memoir to communicate.