Memoir Writing Prompts: It Matters

by Matilda Butler on December 27, 2011

Writing Prompt LogoPost #118 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompt – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

The Parable of the Starfish

As Kendra and I walked the beach at Newport, she told me about an article by Seth Godin that she had just read. Although he was talking about effective marketing, I remembered the parable he mentioned as I sat to write today’s prompt.

He described the parable of the starfish in which a child picks up a starfish, stranded on the beach, and tosses it back into the ocean. When a passerby told her it was pointless to do this because there were too many to save them all, she responded that it mattered to that one starfish.

As Kendra was tellingmemoir, memoir writing prompt, memoir writing, storytelling me the story, she spotted a large number of jellyfish that were stranded on the sand. She picked one up and put it back in the water. Saving a jellyfish, one at a time. To each one, it mattered.

Well, I don’t know if it actually mattered to the jellyfish that Kendra gently returned to the water. That’s a question beyond the scope of this blog post. (Or, as I’ve been known to say, “That’s above my pay grade.)

memoir, memoir writing prompt, memoir writing, storytellingBut it seemed to me that our stories at a lot like jellyfish or starfish. There are a large number of them and it is impossible to save all of them. But that doesn’t mean we should give up trying. We need to write as many as possible.

How many of your stories have you already saved? How many more do you want to save?

memoir writing, memoir, how to write a memoir, saving our personal life stories, life writing, storytellingLook at how carefully Kendra returns the jellyfish to the water. We should be careful with our stories, lavishing them with details and descriptions. When we save a story, we don’t want to cut it in half or leave a part behind. This doesn’t mean you have to include every grain of sand that got entangled with the story. But don’t rush the story either. Slow down so that both you and your reader can enjoy your storytelling.

A new year, 2012, is almost here. I hope the prompt below will encourage you to save more of your stories in the coming 12 months.

Memoir Writing Prompts

1. You might think of this as a journaling prompt. If so, get out your journal, get comfortable on your favorite sofa or in your special writing chair. Then create your 2012 list of stories you want to save. For now, think of one story per month. Can you do more? Of course you can. But let this list be your “At a minimum, I’ll write these stories in 2012.” Start with important ones that you haven’t already written. My guess is that each one your list will remind you of others.

2. More the computer type? Create a new file and begin your list of storytelling for 2012. You can start with a few words that will remind you of the story. Then once you have 12 stories listed that you’ll save this coming year, go back and elaborate on each — when did the story take place, who is in the story, where does the story happen, what was your emotional state at the time, what did you learn as a result of the story, in what ways were you different before… and after…

Well you get the point. Return to your list monthly. Be sure that by the last day of the month you have written at least one of the stories on your memoir vignette list.

memoir, memoir writing prompt, memoir tips, how to write a memoir











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The Top Personal History Blogs of 2011. | Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian
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2012: Of Things to Come for “True Stories Well Told” | True Stories Well Told
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Ronda January 4, 2012 at

I have often used the Starfish story when describing how one person can make a difference for others even though easy to be overwhelmed by many needs and possibilities. I like using the message as related to our writing. Thanks for the idea!

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