Tips to Find Your Memoir Theme

Brave Knight

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

Writing a memoir requires the skill sets and virtues of a knight.

The author needs unparalleled bravery and must possess an honest and true heart. He or she has to show humility and be generous to the others mentioned in the book, even when they don’t deserve it.

But how do you find the theme of the tale you want to tell?

Start with the end to find your memoir theme

A good memoir takes the reader on a journey of the courageous hero (you). Your path should lead to growth or accomplishment of a goal (if it doesn’t, please rethink writing the book). This growth or accomplishment will point you in the direction of your memoir theme.

While the spoils of war, the victories, are the focus of your memoir, lessons will be learned along the way. Keep in mind, that means your mistakes will be exposed for all to see. But in the end, you should be the conquering hero.

And the reader will be by your side, sharing in your victory.

For instance, if you are a successful businessperson and wish to share your story, your theme might be how you slayed your personal demons that threatened to hold you back in order to rise up in the business world. I’ve written quite a few memoirs with this message.

Or perhaps you survived a life-threatening illness. In that case, your memoir theme would be centered around the successful life changes that guided you to health.

So, look carefully at your story. Where did you win? What did you do to get there? That’s where you’ll find your theme.

Summarize the book in one or two sentences

When you complete your book, you’ll often be asked “What’s your story about?” It’s good to tackle this question right at the start. When you first sit down to write out an answer, it might take you a few hundred words to summarize your 50,000-word book. That’s normal.

Remove the extraneous words and explanations and work to pare the description down to a single line or two. Thoroughly examine what your story is about. I know. It isn’t easy, but you have to edit it down.

This description will come in handy when you need an “elevator pitch” later. For instance, I’m writing a book about my experiences roadschooling three children. My pitch would be:

This is a travel memoir plus roadschooling how-to book which chronicles my adventure on the road after trading in my 2,500 square-foot home for a 36-foot RV.

Are you interested in reading my story?

Step back and look at the big picture

It can be hard, when you review your life, to find a theme. After all, it was your life and it can be hard to be objective. That’s probably why a lot of people reach out to me to help them ghostwrite their memoirs. It’s often tough to do on your own.

If you’re writing your book yourself, try telling someone who doesn’t know your story about your memoir idea. This may help you sort it out because they’ll probably ask questions and make comments. Note these. If you are not ready to share your story quite yet, try stepping back and asking yourself questions you think your reader would ask about your story.

“Why did you make that choice?”

“What was your mindset when you traveled that path?”

“What would you do differently now that you know what you know today?”

These kinds of questions can help you formulate a good memoir theme, because your answers are really the successful solutions you developed. They brought you to the place you are today!

Your readers may be able to resolve their issues and be victorious in whatever battles they are fighting when they follow in your brave footsteps and apply your successful solutions. That’s the beauty of a good theme. You, the fearless knight, can really inspire and help others.

Please feel free to email me if you need a little help! To learn more about successful memoir themes, please check out my article on the subject.

Laura Sherman (121 Posts)

Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “Laura the Friendly Ghostwriter,” is a professional ghostwriter and author. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction and is happiest when juggling multiple projects. She recently authored “Chess Is Child’s Play” to introduce the next generation to the game of kings and queens. As a parent of three, and one of the top 50 women chess players in the United States, Laura wrote this book to teach any parent to teach any child, of any age, to play chess.