It is possible to reach a larger audience than family and friends with your memoir. Here are four suggestions to enable your story to appeal to a larger 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 a time to identify what you have experienced that was unique, but be patient with yourself. Linger with your story a while and your uniqueness may come to you. Remember that the uniqueness does not have to appeal to the masses.
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 Kennedy’s 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 Jew leaving your ethnic enclave to live in a Gentile world. 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 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.
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