While family and friends are a worthy readership for your memoir, it is possible to reach an even larger audience. Here are four suggestions to enable your story to appeal to a broader public.
1) Write a story that is truly well-written and whose reading–the prose itself–will bring joy to your reader. To do this, you will need to make effective use of a number of fiction writing techniques including images, metaphors, similes, suspense, foreshadowing, dialog, etc. You will need to achieve clarity, coherence, conciseness, completeness, and much more. If you enjoy playing with language and have an ear for it, you can succeed at creating a well-written memoir that will bring pleasure to its readers.
2) Find what is truly unique about your story and explore that thread. Perhaps you were experimented on with drugs by the CIA or perhaps you were a prisoner of war or perhaps you have given birth to quintuplets. People love to read about a personal experience that is different and unique. And… it is highly probable that you have done something in your life that is unique–even if it is only during a small portion of your life. Perhaps there was a time when you tried to reconcile a liberal political view with a conservative religious group or perhaps you were afflicted with a malady that vanished when you took a special cure. It may take you time to identify what you have experienced that was unique, but be patient with yourself. Linger with your story a while and your uniqueness will come to you. Remember that the uniqueness does not have to appeal to the masses–a niche will do.
3) Set your story in a historical context. Perhaps you were the first person to do something in your group or community–the first man to graduate from a hitherto all-woman’s college. Perhaps you were in the Vietnam war and you wish to write a memoir from the point of view of an ordinary soldier or perhaps you were a pacifist who opposed the war. Perhaps you were among the first women to become a financial advisor in your state and want to write about the dissolution of gender barriers in banking. Perhaps you were housemaid to the Kennedys and have stories to tell about national figures who frequented the house where you worked. Perhaps you have a story to tell about what it was like to be a newly-arrived Muslim living in North America. To succeed at setting your story in a larger historical context, you will obviously have to learn about the historical context and be able to write about it with ease. Not only as it affected you but about the “bigger picture” that gives context to your individual experience. Begin by reading about the historical context and from that may come your story.
4) Find the psychological/spiritual/cultural drama in your story. It often happens that writers can write about the psychological or spiritual unfolding of their personality and, in doing so, write about the “universal,” the typical or normative unfolding and development of a personality or of the soul. This treatment of your memoir sets your life experience as a possible model. An example would be how you became an artist or how you have had an experience of enlightenment or how you rose from rags to riches.
The value of a memoir is measured by the inherent value to the writer and to its selected audience pursuing the same sort of life. If you want to reach a larger audience, it is important to position your story.
These four memoir possibilities demonstrate how to go about making an otherwise ordinary life into a story that can appeal to a larger audience. It is in the rewriting stage, as you struggle with the story that is trying both to remain hidden and to come out, that you will most likely achieve the insights that will appeal to a broader readership. So… keep writing. It is possible for you to produce a story that is not only worth your time to write but worth someone else’s time to read.
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