How to Write a Memory Paper

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A memory paper, often called a memoir essay, is a personal essay focusing on a memory or series of memories from the writer's past. The memory is significant because it was especially vivid, elicited strong emotion or taught the writer a life lesson.

1 Research

Before writing, do some research on the memory you intend to convey. Some free writing may conjure up details about the memory. Talking to others who were involved in the event may add details and perspectives and fill in gaps. Looking at photographs or memorabilia from the event is also useful. If you're writing about a memorable baseball game you attended, dig out the tickets for the game or the foul ball you caught and kept as a souvenir.

2 Structure

Decide how you want to write the memory: as a straight narrative or as a flashback. If you're writing about a memorable baseball game, you might start your narrative in the present with a description of examining the tickets or the souvenir baseball. Then the narrative could flash back to the actual game.

3 Use Fictional Elements

Even though the memory is real, use some fictional elements to make it interesting to read. Use dialogue. Instead of writing that your father suggested you try to catch a foul ball, have him say, "Hey, Champ, I'll bet you can catch a foul ball with your new glove!" Don't worry if it's not exactly what he said. What's important is the memory as a whole, not that every detail is exactly as it happened. Add detail to make the scene come alive in the reader's mind. Appeal to all the reader's senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Add conflict, but it doesn't have to be a major struggle. In the baseball memory, the conflict could simply be the tension the younger you feels at wanting to catch a foul ball and wondering if you can do it.

4 Create Meaning

The memory should have some meaning to it that is important to the writer and the reader. It doesn't have to be an earth-shattering revelation about life. It could be a simple life lesson or a strong emotion that comes through the retelling of the event. In the baseball memory, one meaningful element may be the special bond it forged between you and your father. Or it could be the sense of accomplishment you felt when you actually caught the foul ball.

Diane Kampf has more than 20 years of teaching experience ranging from middle school to college freshmen. She holds a Master of Arts degree in creative writing and English literature and a New York State Secondary Teacher Certificate. She has written educational materials for Learning Express, LLC, Kaplan and Pearson.