A Few Memoir Prompts


–Allison K Williams

Memories, memories! Help me get started!

Here are some ideas on excavating your memory for new material.

• Your first day of school.
Buffy tails. A navy-blue sailor dress. Matching navy leotards that made me itch. “Buster Brown” shoes I was not to scuff on pain of death. A hand-made, purple corduroy book bag, my name stitched on it in squiggly yellow ribbon. Mom took my picture in front of our house in Winnipeg with a film camera that sported a flash cube. This is what I remember of my very first day of school. I was terrified. What do you remember about your first day of school? Where were you living? What did you wear? How did you feel?

• Mine a grudge.
You must grudge to write memoir. If things had turned out exactly right, as your due, there would be no story to tell. You must know that you grudge, and that here, unlike your diary, you are probably not a hero (If you are a hero, let someone else write you). You earn the right to write the pettiness, the silliness, the nasty selfishness of others, as you write your own.

Recall a time you felt disrespected, passed over, unappreciated, or “less than.” Now write a story, poem, or bit of flash non-fiction about it.

• It was the best of times.
Write about your best day, ever. What about that day makes it a happy memory for you? Leave no awesome detail behind.

• It was the worst of times.
If you feel like you’re in a strong enough place, write about your worst day, ever. What made it so horrible? How did it change you for the better? For worse? How have the events of that day changed or influenced your perspective?

• “I remember…”
The timed writing exercise. If you’re feeling a bit free-form and not sure which memory to reflect on, let your subconscious be your guide. Set a timer for a minimum of five minutes. Write I remember at the top of your page or screen and… just write. You might write fifteen sentences that each begin with “I remember,” or, you might write of one or two memories during that time. Try not to judge, just allow your fingers to type, or your hand to write.

• Go meta-memory.
If you’re not ready or inspired to write about a specific memory, write about the quality of your memories in general. Are they shape-shifting and ethereal, constantly evolving in your mind as their molecules merge and dissolve or, are they brilliant, detailed, and in sharp-focus?

• A memory of your choice.
Many regular readers, (I’m looking at you, @LittleMissMenopause, @Bumblepuppies, and @Philosophermouseofthehedge) often come up with their own fantastic, creative twists to the weekly writing challenge. Choose the memory you will write about and the way in which you’ll share it, be it a haiku, a prose poem, a stream-of-consciousness piece, a bit of flash non-fiction or a story. (Be sure to check out the comments on this challenge throughout the week for twists that readers suggest! One of their ideas may become the germ of your next great piece.)