Scribblers' Guild

Memories to Memoirs

10 Memoir Prompts To Get You Started

What Should I Write About?

chalkboard with memoir prompts

Some of the first questions people ask when beginning a memoir are:

What should I write about?  How do I choose which events and incidents to include and which ones should I leave out?

What’s Important?

Sometimes a writing prompt or suggestion can help you to get your first words down and give you a sense of direction, but it helps if you have a clear idea of why you’re writing your memoir in the first place.

tube of glue, memoir prompts

Purpose And Theme

If you’ve downloaded my freebie mini-course, “Mapping Your Memoirs”, you’ll know that your subject matter should be determined by your purpose and your theme.  These are the glue that holds your story together. Without them, your story may be rambling and incoherent.

Basically, your Purpose is why you want to write the story – perhaps it’s to get a message out to people.  Your Theme is what you want to write about, the overarching message itself. It’s helpful to clarify these two concepts before you begin writing. Purpose is defined by your audience, your reader. Theme is defined by your message.

Theme is generally an abstract idea, a concept that you want to get across to your readers.  Purpose is what you want to say about it, the message that compels you to write your story in the first place.

10 Memoir Prompts To Jump-Start Your Thinking

Here are some ideas you could use to develop your own theme and purpose for your memoirs, but for your story to be authentic, you have to determine your own message (theme) and the reasons for writing it (purpose).  Knowing who you’re writing for will help you decide.  Feel free to adapt these memoir prompts for your own use or discard them entirely in favour of your own themes and purposes.

1. Theme:  Overcoming adversity 
Purpose(s):  How to do it and why it’s important

2. Theme:  Journey to forgiveness 
Purpose:  Reaching a place of peace and acceptance, coming to terms with injustice

3. Theme:  Retribution
Purpose:  Setting the record straight, justice, or getting even, vengeance

4. Theme:  Redemption
Purpose:  Possibility of achieving stability and even greatness after a bad beginning

5. Theme:  A great love story
Purpose:  Showing the power of love to overcome all obstacles

6. Theme:  Personal honour or integrity in the face of injustice
Purpose:  Showing the strength and power of doing the right thing

7. Theme:  A particular belief or value, such as the sanctity of life
Purpose:  Showing the connectedness between people, cultures or species

8. Theme:  Nostalgic remembrance of a simpler time and the yearning to return to it
Purpose:  Help the reader to experience or relive emotion felt by the writer

9. Theme:  Depiction of a time of great strife or turbulence
Purpose:  Showing the lessons learned, coping methods, emotional growth

10. Theme:  Funny stories that happened to you
Purpose:  Humorous entertainment

Do you have any suggestions for more prompts?  Let me know what your story’s about.  Just leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Writing!

Mapping Your Memoir author, Bev Hanna




About Beverley Hanna

Trained as an artist in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, I was one of the first creatives to be employed in the computer graphics industry in Toronto during the early 1980’s. For several years, I exhibited my animal portraiture in Canada and the U.S. but when my parents needed care, I began writing as a way to stay close. I’ve been writing ever since. I ran a highly successful writer’s circle focusing on the craft and techniques of good writing. Most of my students went on to publish works of their own. Now it's time to take that knowledge online to share with a larger audience.

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