If you wish to write what you know, or the story of part of your life, you must come to grips with the fact that your life is not a page turner. What is well written memoir for you, may not be interesting to the general public. However, a person who lives with edge of the seat excitement often doesn’t have time to reflect enough and write the story of their own life.
Therefore, you have to be an excellent writer to satisfy readers with an examination of a more mundane life. How do you determine if your writing is excellent enough to carry your memoir? For me there are four major traits of good writing.
- The first characteristic is original content. You will be telling a story that is probably not unique. But what you have to say should not be frequently heard. If your situation is a common one, it helps to regard it from a unique point of view.
- Another important item is a recognizable goal or problem to be solved in the account of your life. There is no reason for it to be given away in the first few pages. However, the narrative needs to work towards a definite resolution. The author should follow the path to this goal through diversions and detours. If the action keeps looping around it should form a spiral that shifts to another level with each revolution rather than becoming a flat circle.
- Good writing needs a touch of reality. This would seem to be a requirement for a memoir, but I’ve read ones that dwell on only the most fantastic events, and sometimes embellish these to keep the excitement going. At that point the characters no longer possess a touch of reality. As a reader, I need to understand the characters, their motives, and their struggles.
- Even in prose, I am attracted by the music of words. I enjoy sentences that play with repetition and variation in a poetic style. Sentences that are not what I’ve heard often but are still comprehensible. Is your world depicted in unusual phrases? Is it shown in a manner that the reader can envision? Good writing should flow with a kind of beauty and play with language.
Be aware that what draws in one reader is often over the head of another. So, when you write your memoir do it both for yourself and the readers searching for a book that is not ordinary and may not be like their own life. However, it should be a book with a very real life of its own. The quality of the ideas and content is what makes or breaks a piece of writing for me.