Memoir of a Person

Often we want to capture memories of important events and people but have trouble finding the words. This activity guides a writer to develop a memoir — an account about a special person. A memoir focuses on what your relationship was like and why this person has been important to you. Directions for this writing activity can be read aloud by a facilitator or used independently.

1. Selecting a topic: Think of a person who has been important in your life; someone you’d like to think about and write about.  Write this person’s name at the top of a sheet of paper.

2. Brainstorming events: Think back over your relationship with this person and remember some things you did together, times you shared, events that stand out. Take about five minutes to list of as many specific incidents involving you and this person as you can remember. Just list the incidents; no need to describe them now. Express them in the fewest words possible to identify them, like “Christmas of 1974,” or “the car crash,” or “fishing on Lake Michigan.”

3. Developing descriptions: Consider the following questions. After each question, jot down notes, words, details, ideas that come to mind.

  • How would you describe this person to someone who did not know him/her?
  • List and describe places were you together with this person.
  • What special things—objects, pictures, songs, books, movies, holidays, etc., do you associate this person?
  • What feelings do you have when you think about this person?

4. Locating the story: Go back to your original list of incidents. Find an event that seems especially rich, interesting, and meaningful to you and circle it—or, if you’ve just remembered such an incident, write it down now. You are looking for an event that helps explore your relationship with this person, or perhaps when feelings between the two of you were at a peak.

5. Finding connections: Go through your other lists and circle or check items that pertain to the incident you’ve chosen.

6. Writing a draft: Use your lists in whatever way they might help you write a memoir, that is, an account about this special person, focusing on the incident you’ve chosen. Try to explore what your relationship was like, why indeed this person has been important in your life.

7. Sharing your memoir: If you are comfortable sharing, partners can share each other’s memoirs. When finished, you will likely have experienced the power and personal significance of the written word.

Memoirs are always deeply felt, highly communicative writing, and sharing them is recognized by all as an unusual and important experience.