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Reader Expectations for a Memoir

Part of the Memoir Writing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You’re writing a memoir to share your story, which means you obviously want people to read it. To write a memoir designed to satisfy and engage readers, strive to meet the following expectations:

  • A sympathetic main character: A reader’s sympathy and interest doesn’t come for free. You have to earn it. Make this a priority for your main character to come across as sympathetic, and readers will appreciate it.

  • Vividly depicted scenes: A vividly depicted scene has strong imagery that creates a movie in the mind of readers. Strong scenes like these are memorable and lasting.

  • Emotional tension: An emotionally involved reader will keep reading. Find a way to create and heighten the emotional impact of your story. Every story has emotional tension. Make sure you have the distance or outside guidance to find it and fully explore it.

  • Increasing sense of drama/conflict: A story that builds increasingly toward the climax comes across as purposeful. How do you build? Ratchet up the conflict. Show how the stakes are raised. Make readers know what might be lost.

  • A satisfying ending: Note that this is a satisfying ending versus a good or bad ending. No matter how the main story of your memoir ends, it should wrap up the main story tensions and bring a sense of closure.

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