Saturday, September 8, 2012

What Makes a Memoir 'Great?'

As a reader, I enjoy reading biographies and memoirs. Some biographies and memoirs are much better than others to read  than others.

I recently read Holly Robinson's article What Makes a Memoir 'Great?'  on the Huffington Post website and felt she made some great suggestions for those writing their own memoir. 

Since I'm not planning on writing my own memoir, I found the suggestions Ms. Robinson wrote for writers of memoirs was also beneficial for readers to keep in mind while reading a memoir.  These suggestions are a sort of guidepost, if you will, to what good memoir writing should be. 

What qualities do you look for when reading a biography or memoir?


  1. Great article you've found. However it does have its faults.

    I'm writing my autobiography/memoir and have found people in my family - mainly my Mum and her sister - don't like the sound of it. You see, it's of my life and where I've been and how I've remembered it. And when they read it, they have gone in and corrected it saying what I said was wrong... however, their part of the story doesn't shine through in mine because a lot of the times I wasn't included in family meetings that would have completed the story I was writing... or the little bit of information that would have made my story interesting instead of funny would have really been needed.

    Also, I have no idea how to write my medical side of my life story because it keeps on getting changed all the time by Mum. Each time I've written it, given it to her, she'll change it, I'll edit, then hand it back, she'll say it's all wrong and I'll say that's what she gave me... and we'll go around in circles. So, now, I've just written a nice page and a half saying that I don't have a clue what's up in my medical history because it seems I can never get it right.

    Either that or nobody wants me to write about where I've been, what I've done, or who I have met. So, writing a memoir really does suck.

    1. It sounds like you're caught between a rock and hard place when it comes to how you view certain family situations, etc. and how others have viewed the same situation, which does make it difficult in terms of writing about your own personal journey.

      I'm not writer, but I would think (correct me if I'm wrong here) writing your memoir is more about your personal journey and insight to your own life. Yes, fact checking is essential and being respectful of family, friends, etc. is a good thing, but honoring your story is essential too, right?

    2. The main problem is that I have all these stories of places I've been, things I've done and people I've met and events I've enjoyed, and yet I have found that some people in my family seem to think that no matter what happens, when I come home, I sit and stare at the walls until they come by and make my life exciting... but that's not how my life works.

      When I first moved out of home, I lived with a regional darts champion who taught me to play darts in the living room of the place we rented at Runcorn... now Mum and Dad didn't know this until last Saturday when I was invited to play Darts and they found out I was a good player and I told them where I learned to play; but the twist to the story was that the champion was a dope-head and always got in trouble with the police and drank heavily... she wasn't a good person to be around, so we kicked her out; however, she had made about 6 copies of our house key! Bummer!

      Now, Dad thought that was a funny story... it's worthwhile telling in my memoir... if only I'm allowed to write it. ;)

      My older brother loves hearing stories I've got where I've been overseas or lived somewhere else because it's got to do with a time when the family isn't around... and I really am myself. And he's seen that real person too. :P

    3. Gotta love the story about the darts! Too bad you can't use it your memoir. Is it because of privacy issues?

    4. I will. It'll be a funny part of living with people... to show that just because you live with others and they're human doesn't mean it all runs smoothly. :)

  2. I don't have the guts to write my memoir. It would be a family feud to rival the Hatfields and McCoys and I don't want to start it or relive it. But I did take a workshop on writing memoirs and use a lot of the elements I learned when I write blog posts. Many of them are mini-memoir moments. The workshop instructor taught us a little about balancing the story we're relaying with reminiscing and reflection. I found it insighful and try to incorporate that more when I write about events in my life.

    1. I like reading your blog posts as you do an excellent job of telling stories!