© 2010 by Jack Remick and Robert J. Ray

Think of the memoir as a series of frozen moments in the past that you free with your writing. The structure of the moment can be seen as a theme with variations in much the same way a jazz musician or a classical composer works theme and variations. Think of the people in your memoir as inhabitants of a secret world each one hiding behind a mask that needs to be lifted.

The problem of memory and mind is chaos. Memory doesn’t work in a straight line but seems to come from all around you. One thought or memory trains into another and pretty soon you’ve got a whole cloud of feelings surrounding you. How do you get some control of the chaos of memory?

You use the Memoir Moment.

Musical in nature, deep in meaning, loaded with subtext, the memoir moment contains a delicious, sometimes hilarious, often painful memory that has etched itself in your unconscious

To get to the memoir moment, you follow your mind and your memory by writing about Firsts and Lasts — the first time I bled, the last time I kissed…

Firsts and  Lasts are Thresholds that you and the inhabitants of your memoir cross  on the life journey. The first time initiates, the last time severs with pain or memory or nostalgia.

To get a chain of memoir moments you write “I remember…”

  • I remember the time when…
  • I remember the time when…
  • I remember the time when…

First Time:

  • The first time I made love
  • The first time I bled
  • The first time my mother told me
  • My first day of school

First and  Last times are important Threshold Crossings-

Last Time:

  • At my last birthday party
  • The last time I wore
  • The last time I saw my mother
  • The last time I kissed
  • The last time I made love to
  • The last time you told me


Structure of the Memoir Moment: Think of the memoir moment as a theme with variations–

  • Theme: I remember the first time…
  • Variation 1: and that reminds me of the time when…
  • Variation 2: and when she said that, I remembered…
  • Recapitulation:  but nothing can be like the first time
  • Segue: Later, when I am

The personal memoir gathers its power not just from an intensive examination of the “I” or narrator, but from the other inhabitants the “I” encounters on the journey of discovery.