Writing Memoirs for Children is a bit the same as writing full memoirs, but with some minor adjustments. Memoir for children is just the same as most children’s storybooks, except that the story is based on real people and events. Below is a list of the important things to remember when writing memoirs for kids.
Know the difference between a memoir and an autobiography.
First, we must make sure that what we are writing is a memoir and not a biography. An autobiography tells the story of a person’s entire life, from family background to childhood and adult years. A memoir is a specific timeline of a person’s life. It can be a memorable childhood experience, a phase, years spent at work, a certain neighborhood, or a specific story involving a particular period of doing or spending time over something. As they say, you can only write one biography, and that the whole narrative arc. With memoirs, you can create as many and from different timelines. Once you can differentiate which is which, you are now ready for the next step.
Choose a memorable event that children can very well relate to.
Creating a memoir for children is a bit of a tricky task. Children are used to fairy tales, magical adventures, and animal stories. It can be difficult to interest them in reading about another person’s life. However, if you create something truly unforgettable and meaningful, then they are likely to appreciate it. A good memoir for children contains a heartwarming story. For many children’s book writers, the topics below have proven to be effective:
- Meeting new friends or pets
- First days in the neighborhood
- An unforgettable family holiday
- Great milestone with the family
- Discovering or learning something new for the first time
- Significant events in the family (birth of a sibling, death of a pet or family member)
- Meeting someone very important or taking part in a very important public event
- And many other memories from one’s childhood that left long-lasting impressions
Capture the reader’s attention and engage right at the beginning.
Young readers have a short attention span. It is essential to capture their attention and engage with them early on. How do we do this with memoirs for children? Like many other children’s books, visual plays a key role in drawing the child’s interest. Stunning images and composition almost always attract kids. By incorporating great and colorful visuals, you ensure that readers will definitely check your book. Another way to catch their attention is to write interesting opening lines, introduce memorable characters in the first pages of your book, and of course, the setting should stir their imaginations. Although memoirs talk about another person’s experience, it should be something that they can relate to. There are many universal experiences and shared canon truths. You need to pick the ones that kids will likely dig in.
Write your memoir as if telling a compelling fictional narrative.
Children are only interested in great and amazing characters. This is the part where you take your memoir to another level, as in children’s level. The key to that is to tell your story in a way as if they are reading straight from a fantasy adventure or a fictional setting. There are several ways to achieve this. One is by creating your main character as someone larger than life. Highlight the main character’s amazing features, making sure his or her story impacts the readers in such a way that he is “immortalized” in your narrative. One perfect example is Lynda Daniele’s Grandpa Nick’s Bump. Granda Nick refers to Lynda Daniele’s deceased husband, Nick. She wrote the memoir to tell of Nick’s wonderful experience with their neighbor kids who have come to consider Nick as their own grandpa. At first glance, this might not be anything more than a personal narrative, but because Daniele was able to paint Nick’s character as someone larger than life, Grandpa Nick’s Bump is a memoir that many children can now relate to. The story’s flow also plays a vital role in transforming a simple “ordinary” narrative into a fantastic story.
Keep your children’s memoir light, simple, and below 600 words.
One major difference between children’s memoir and those that we often read is its format. Aside from the topic, theme, and the central message, presentation is the key. Memoirs for children should be, first and foremost, a light read. This means that topics should be those that children can relate to and absorb well. Second, it should be presented in a way that is easier to appreciate. The format should be similar to that of the usual children’s illustrated books (again, Lynda Daniele’s Grandpa Nick’s Bump comes into mind). Lastly, a memoir for young readers should not be limit to a maximum of 600 words, especially for children’s illustrated books (others recommend a range of 400-900 words). Again, the young readers’ attention span is the main consideration for this figure. The lighter the reading experience, the more the children will enjoy reading the story.
Other Important Tips to Remember:
Aside from the essential tips above, here is a list of other things to consider when writing memoir stories for children.
- Do away with a linear narrative.
- Start your story with a funny line.
- Create an emotional bond early.
- If possible, use all the senses.
- Short lines, short paragraphs.
We hope that this article has provided some useful insights into creating your own memoir for kids. Good luck and enjoy!