“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of 15.”
--Willa Cather, writer
If you are feeling stuck on your rough draft of your personal narrative, sit down with your notebook and this list of questions. See what you can think of for each one--you don't have to write a lot yet, just get a good list going. Your life is full of experiences and things you've learned--it just might take a minute or two to recall them.
QUESTIONS FOR MEMOIRISTS
A memoir is a story about your life, like a personal narrative.
What are my earliest memories? How far back can I remember?
What are the most important things that have happened to me in my life so far?
What have I seen that I can’t forget?
What’s an incident that shows what my family and I are like?
What’s an incident that shows what my friends and I are like?
What’s something that happened to me at school that I’ll always remember?
What’s something that happened to me at home that I’ll always remember?
What’s an incident that changed how I think or feel about something?
What’s an incident that changed my life
What’s a time or place that I was perfectly happy?
What’s a time or place that I laughed a lot?
What’s a time or place when it felt as if my heart were breaking?
What’s a time with a parent that I’ll never forget?
What’s a time with a grandparent that I’ll never forget?
What’s a time with a brother or sister that I’ll never forget?
What’s a time with a cousin or another relative that I’ll never forget?
Can I remember a time that I learned something or did something for the first time?
What memories emerge when I make a timeline of my life so far and note the important things that happen to me each year?
What can I remember about a time I spent with an important person from my heart map?
What can I remember about starting a new school? Moving to a new place?
List adapted from “Lessons that Change Writers” by Nancy Atwell ©2007