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Memoir Writing English 10

Page history last edited by west0524 8 years, 8 months ago

An autobiography is when a person tells the story of his or her life. A

personal memoir is a true story about just one very important incident in a person’s life.

A personal memoir is written in the first person, using the pronoun I. It has clear

narrative structure – A beginning, middle, and an end. Because it is an important event,

a memoir usually reveals something about the person’s personality.


When writing a memoir, include information about the time and place as background

to your story. Remember to write about an important moment or event in your life that

reveals something about your personality and a “so what” moment.


A good memoir will do more than just relate events.  This is what an autobiography will do.  A memoir combines narrative, reflection, and analysis.  In choosing an event that defines yourself or your personal worldview, you’re also reflecting on how it’s shaped you, what it’s taught you, and how you use this lesson to shape your actions in life.


When beginning your composition, remember that a memoir must cover an important,

defining event in your life.  Look for something which reveals a piece of your true personality, as well as something that reveals a lesson you’ve learned, which has been a

piece of the formation of you as a person today.


Remember: I will be the only one reading this memoir.  I ask that you think less about your public appearance and more about your real self.  You are invited to be as personal as you’re comfortable being in this format, with your only real goal to teach me in two ways:

            A lesson you learned that I can take away from your experience.

            A greater understanding of you as a person, as well as how you’ve become the person you are.


When writing your memoir, include the following:


- Voice – voice is the personality and point of view that the writer wants to

communicate to the reader. Voice is mostly communicated in the writer’s choice

of words.


- Select an event that you could describe in a short personal narrative (minimum

of five paragraphs long). This may be an important event in your life or

something fun that you think other people might find interesting. Use your

senses to recall this event. Think of the colours, smells, and sounds. How did you

feel at the time? Express your ideas in your voice – use the words that come

naturally to you.


- Write in some dialogue; this will help show what people are like and how

they’re feeling.


- Write your draft. Make your writing as clear as possible, buy don’t worry too

much about correct spelling, punctuation, or grammar at this stage.


- Revise your draft by checking your paragraphs, making sure you’ve indented

your sentences. Re-read your story to check for proper sentences and

appropriate word choice, spelling, and grammar.  In this revising stage, you

move sentences, paragraphs, and words to make sure your writing is clear.  I will be grading you on spelling, grammar, and mechanics.

- Edit your piece of writing by checking for last minute mistakes. Read it aloud to

ensure that it has good flow. Re-write into good copy to be passed in.


- Good copy must be double spaced and in blue or black ink. If typing, please use

1.5 spacing.



This is not a private “Dear Diary” journal entry. Keep in mind that your audience is the general public, including (but not limited to) your instructor and your classmates. Write as if your essay would be published in a national magazine, journal, or anthology. If you wouldn’t be willing to share the story you choose aloud with your classmates, consider carefully before you write about it.


Degree of Formality:

While this is a personal essay, and you may take greater creative and stylistic license than if you were writing a response to literature essay, you must still write in a credible and intelligent way. If your story and its moral are to be taken seriously then they must be coherent, focused, and logically presented.


Grading Hints (AKA: What I’m Looking For):

I will be evaluating you on several elements, especially:

  • Focus: How well do you keep your paper on track with your main idea and purpose?
  • Organization: Are the ideas thoughtfully and logically ordered?
  • Balance: Do you balance the paper properly between the two main elements of “story” and “interpretation”?
  • Detailed Support: Do you breathe life into your narrative and validate your analysis with specific evidence and sensory concrete details?
  • Style: Is the writing interesting and artistic? Is it clear and easy to read? Does it reveal you to be a person of sophistication and eloquence?


A note: a rough draft is a large portion of this assignment, but it will not be turned into me until your final draft is due.  However, I will gladly read your rough drafts as you complete them.  If you want me to comment on your draft, I highly advise you turn this into me no later than December 12th.







Your final draft is due on December 18th and will include:


  1. A rough draft, approximately three full pages long
  2. A final draft, approximately three full pages, and including

            A narrative revolving around one specific event or moment in your life

            Sensory details of the event


            Dialogue illustrating the characters and furthering your story

            An honest appraisal/analysis: for better or for worse, what did you learn and how did this event shape you?

            A clear theme


     3. A one-page process paper in which you explain the seams of the narrative you're writing.  While the memoir itself will be "show, don't tell", this process paper will be about telling, not showing.  Why did you choose this event?  What is so important about the lesson you learned?  How do you think it defines you?  What do you think other people could learn from your actions?


            This paper does not need to follow a thesis/body/conclusion format.  What this paper does need is a one-sentence statement at the bottom in which you clearly write out what your own theme is.  For example: “From this experience trying to find my brother when he was lost at the river."

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