Memoir Writing: What to Leave Out

You do not have to tell the whole story. You can tell a truer story by leaving some stuff out. We don’t leave out important events or feelings. We just eliminate side events and feelings. Things that happen that are not part of the thrust of the story are left by the wayside.

In my memoir, Salt and Paper, I left in my difficulties with my son but left out much of the sweet times we had experienced together. I inferred there had been many by showing a few as background but we came to a time when he needed to move away and it was difficult. The story was about his decision to do that. How that affected me and my grandchild.  His wife was involved but not the main person I was concerned with, at that time.

Do not change the story which is most important and which is the story at the center. Memoirs are made of memories, and memories are mere impressions, bits and pieces of events, imprints on our minds that withstand time. It may be an especially happy or sad time. They may reshape themselves, proving that our memories is not the absolute truth but “a truth.” Try to get all the siblings in a household to agree and you’ll see what I mean.

How is memory not static? Have you learned to find the heart of the issue for your writing?


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