How to Develop  a Memoir Theme

Barry Fox & Nadine Taylor

Bestselling Ghostwriters of Memoirs &  Business Books

THINK THROUGH those amusing, dramatic, wrenching or heartwarming stories that you’ve been telling your friends for years.

Gather  Your Stories

Step #1

WRITE A TITLE for each of your stories on a 3x5 card; then lay the cards out on a table.

Name Them

Step #2

WHAT DID EACH STORY MEAN to you when it was happening? What does it mean to you now? How did the event in the story change your life? How did it help make you the person you are today?

Think About Each One

Step #3

SORT YOUR STORIES into different piles according to when they occurred, who was involved, how you were affected, and so on.

Sort Them

Step #4

A THEME is a central idea  that holds a group of stories together, making a cohesive narrative. Keep grouping and regrouping your stories until a theme emerges. (Not all of your stories will fit the theme, so don't hesitate to cut.)

Group &  Regroup Them 

Step #5

COMMON THEMES INCLUDE rags to riches, family struggles, good versus evil, romance, becoming a parent, going bust, adventures in sports or war, and having a profound religious experience, to name a few.

Find Your Theme

Step #6

DON'T PUSH to make themes appear. Just keep sifting through your stories, arranging them in different groups. Pretty soon, several themes should emerge naturally.

Let the Themes Emerge

Step #7

LET THE THEMES percolate in your mind. One of them will eventually leap out and demand your attention. Most likely, you'll see that many of your stories just naturally fit this theme and build to a climax.

Select the  Winner

Step #8

YOUR THEME will serve as your memoir’s through-line and can turn a collection of random stories into a powerful narrative. A strong theme is the backbone of a powerful memoir!

Now You're Ready to Write!

Step #9

Need Help Writing Your Memoir?


Barry Fox & Nadine Taylor  

Bestselling authors & ghostwriters