Memoir, Essay, and the Memoir-Essay: How “I” Becomes “You”

We live in an age when many people try to write first person or “personal” essays, but often underestimate the technical difficulty or frustrating intricacy of the form. The goal of every memoir-essay is to make the writer’s “I’ become a reader’s “Me”– make the intensely related details of a life-changing episode for the writer somehow intersect with the reader’s own feelings and experience. This literary alchemy is hard to accomplish, but has some craft rules: making sure that the “A-plot” of the reminiscence is relieved and reinforced by the “B-plot” of a larger reflection, for instance, and above all making sure that every emotional peak of the writer’s heart is met by two together are what lead readers in, and on.

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