Rhetoric and Composition/Memoirs

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Memoirs are a form of first-person autobiographical writing that record the writer's reaction to important events in his or her life. Influential people, such as former U. S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, often write lengthy memoirs depicting the many critical events of their lives and careers. But every writer has experienced a few critical events that will be of interest to people who do not know them.

To begin writing a memoir, first recall an event that shaped the person you are today. It might be a common event, such as the birth of a younger sibling, a trip you made with your family or classmates, or your parents' divorce. If you cannot think of anything, use the brainstorming and freewriting techniques described in the previous chapter. Another technique is to choose one of your good friends, and begin informally exchanging stories of your years growing up. You might even ask your friends which of your stories most interests them.

One thing to remember when you are writing your memoir is to shape your material to fit the form. In this class you will be writing mostly short essays, so you will need to keep the background to your story brief. It may seem unlikely if you have not done a lot of writing, but it is much easier to be wordy than to be brief. One of the most important skills students can learn in a composition class is how to compress their writing until only the most important ideas and words remain. In most situations, the fewer words per sentence and paragraph the better.