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Memoir Writing Prompts: “Don’t Tell Anybody”

by Matilda Butler on November 18, 2014

Writing Prompt LogoPost #197 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Matilda Butler

A Sign on the Wall

I never know where the next idea for a writing prompt will come from. Actually, the variety of sources both amazes and pleases me. Recently, we were in a small bakery in Pacific City, Oregon with the evocative name Grateful Bread. The friendly table staff hurried between kitchen and tables in their tie-dyed shirts and the aromas of gingerbread pancakes and marionberry compote filled the small space. This was part of a coastal getaway to celebrate with our just one-year-old granddaughter and her parents. The bakery is popular with tourists and locals alike. So while we were waiting the ten minutes to be seated, I began to read all the signs on the wall.

One sign jumped out, grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Take a picture of me for your blog about Women’s Memoirs.” Maybe that isn’t exactly what happened, but it’s pretty close. As soon as you see the sign, you’ll understand how it brought me to this blog post.

Here’s the sign on the wall (I even let some of the orange-peel plaster show):

memoir writing prompts, writing help

The sign reminded me of my childhood. How I loved to share stories with a close friend, a girl I met on the first day of kindergarten. And, yes, the stories often ended with “Don’t tell anybody.”

Memoir Writing Prompt

1. Let’s use the quote as the inspiration for today’s writing prompt. Think about a time when you shared a story and either asked the other person to “don’t tell” or when you heard a story from a friend and were asked, “Don’t tell anybody.” This can be a remembrance from your childhood or from your adult years and could have been a story shared with a family member or work colleagues.

Stories worth repeating always end: “Don’t tell anybody.”

2. Write for ten minutes and cover these points:

  • What is the shared story?
  • Do you think it was a story that should have been kept secret? If so, why?
  • Was the story kept secret?


  • 3. Now bring yourself to the present. Think about a story in your life that you have never shared with anyone. Perhaps you were worried that your plea to “Don’t tell anybody” would be ignored. Share your story now by writing about it for ten minutes. If it is important that it be kept a secret, then destroy what you have written. Just writing it is valuable. If it no longer has to be kept secret, consider sharing it with a friend. Enjoy that you don’t have to end your story with “Don’t tell anybody.”

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    Memoir Writing Prompts: The Turkeys Are Flying (No, Really)

    by Matilda ButlerAugust 15, 2013
    Memoir Writing Prompts: The Turkeys Are Flying (No, Really)

    Women’s Memoirs suggests ways writing prompts help you as you work on your memoir.

    Read the full article →

    Journal Writing for Memoir: Clarify Your Purpose & Direction

    by Amber Lea StarfireJanuary 21, 2012
    Journal Writing for Memoir: Clarify Your Purpose & DirectionJournal Writing for Memoir: Clarify Your Purpose & Direction

    Post #52 Memoir Writing, Journaling by Amber Lea Starfire You’ve decided to write a memoir, or at least to record some memories on paper, and you have a general sense of your reading audience. Perhaps you’re writing a legacy of story for your children and grandchildren, or you hope to publish your stories for a […]

    Read the full article →
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