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    Your Memoir - Where to Begin 

     Dickens opened his biographical novel, David Copperfield, with the line, “I am born.” That worked in the 19th century, but it’s not the way to get started with a memoir today.

    The opening lines of your book must interest and engage your readers or they are likely to put your book down never to pick it up again. A dramatic scene to hook the reader works effectively. It’s a technique you often see in fiction. Think of the mystery genre. The book opens with a murder. The hero – cop, private eye, whatever – comes on the scene with a pressing problem to solve, a killer to catch, and the story is off and running. The reader is immediately engaged and goes along for the ride.


    Your memoir probably won’t start off with a murder, but there are plenty of less grisly dramatic moments. Place yourself at a turning point. Let the reader see why it’s a critical, life-changing moment. I am currently working with an author who begins her memoir with the moment when she is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and told she has two years to live. She can choose to accept the diagnosis and prepare to die or seek a more aggressive way of treating the cancer than she had been offered. She chooses the latter, finds a successful treatment and has, for the past fifteen years, been a  vocal advocate for people in situations similar to her own.


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