The fundamental element of any memoir is authenticity.
This doesn’t necessarily mean every word needs to be absolutely correct. We all know our memory plays tricks on us, so we’re not going to remember every word that might have been said years ago under stress or in a moment of excitement.
This authenticity includes a relationship between the author’s character and an honest portrayal of an original truth through the reproduction of the essential elements of the event or topic. This truth must also extend beyond the author into a universal theme that speaks to reader’s hearts.
Let’s break down this breathy statement:
Author’s Character: their moral compass, not the protagonist or antagonist of the story.
Honest Portrayal/reproduction of the essential elements: Not a word by word or play by play re-enactment of the time, but gist of what was happening, the emotions, the actions, the staging of the scene for a reader’s understanding.
Original Truth: The tipping point, the learning moment, the meaning and or purpose of this piece.
Universal Theme: How the reader is going to connect and/or relate to the story, author, or event.
Authenticity in memoir is crucial to a successful connection to the reader. It is the element that makes memoir worth writing and worthy of reading.