How to use fiction techniques in memoir

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post advocating using fiction techniques in memoir

I recently stumbled across a terrific blog post on Joanna Penn’s site The Creative Penn. (Aside: Is there a better surname for a writer than Penn? I think not.)

The post, which was the work of writer and book editor Michael Mohr (pictured above), argued that memoir should be written very much like a novel.

Here are the nine tips that Mohr proposed:  

  1. Like novels, memoirs must use details
  2. Scene is just as important in memoir as it is in novels
  3. ARC (transformation) is king
  4. Readers need to see the narrator struggle
  5. Every novel and memoir requires strong voice
  6. Things need to happen (there needs to be plot)
  7. Characters must be fully-developed and authentic to readers
  8. You need to make readers care about the narrator
  9. Plot your story before you start writing

I’m a big fan of memoir — it’s by far my favourite genre — and Mohr’s list resonated with me. I didn’t like his mention of the O-word (“outline”) but he could have easily replaced it with advice to mindmap.

If you’ve ever thought of writing memoir, or even if you simply like to read it, be sure to check out Mohr’s thoughtful blog post.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on March 12/18.

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