Writing a Memoir – Amanda Says Theme is not Plot

Determine your theme and you are well on your way to writing an interesting memoir says Amanda Patterson of The Write Co.

Writing a memoir has become more than a pipe dream for many South Africans. The Write Co has two graduates whose memoirs were published in 2007: Caryl Wyatt’s, Look me in the eye and John Barry’s Leading from the Front.

How Does One Write a Memoir?

How does one write a memoir? How does one portray a real-life situation that will resonate with a reader? A writer needs to do three important things.

Decide whether he or she is writing an autobiography or a memoir.

Tip: You cannot write an autobiography unless you are famous. Anyone who has an interesting story and a good writing style can write a memoir.

  • Find a theme, and a
  • Plot

Most writers first attempts at a memoir are an indication that they need to see a therapist. Once this has been done, and they realise that their story is not unique, they can apply themselves to the discipline of writing 80 000 words about themselves and the ‘theme’ of their lives.

Theme Should Never Be Confused with Plot

Theme should never be confused with the plot or the storyline of a book. The theme can be described in one word or one phrase.

Some themes to consider are:

  • Ambition, A woman in a man’s world
  • Addiction, Survival, Betrayal, Abuse (these are the most common)
  • Escape, Pride and prejudice, Facing the enemy
  • Who dares wins, Conquering Demons, Resilience, Courage, Strength
  • Era of time & place

What is the Theme of the Memoir?

A theme is the thread defines the memoir. A memoir is a linked series of events with the same underlying theme and it sticks to that theme. No one wants to know when you, a crack addict, rode a bicycle for the first time. Unless the incident can be linked to the theme of addiction.

The theme engages and entertains your readers.

Don’t try and write a story to help others. You are not entering a Miss World pageant. Write your story. If someone gets the message it’s a bonus.

The same rules that are applied to writing a novel must be learned. Use dialogue, use the senses and keep your ego out of it.

Amanda PattersonAmanda Patterson, Founder & CEO of The Write Co. 32 graduates of her course Writers Write have been published. Amanda’s memoir, Let’s Play Risk will be published in late 2008. Visit www.itsallwrite.net to find out more.


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