Writing About Significant Events Print
Writing Workshops


Writing About Significant Events

Write down your memoir’s subject: what’s it about?

List three anecdotes or short events that happened as part of your subject. They might be emotionally intense or dramatic. Avoid the car wreck. Concentrate on something that has movement, which is an action between, among people that produces a change in a person’s character, or belief, or appraisal of another.

(One significant event for me was when my adopted father tore up a piece of paper that had the names of his real parents on it—in front of me, then talked about why with me.)

Good movement characterizes, reveals, changes people.

Choose one.


Describe the setting briefly (emphasize one or two sensory details).

Who’s there: describe each person briefly.

Sketch the action briefly in clock time. How long is the anecdote? It should be in the range of minutes, not hours.

Sketch the dialogue: a few back and forths. Add an internal monologue, if necessary: What you may have thought or felt but didn’t say can get into the scene.


Write for fifteen minutes, 500 words. Show what happened. Use past or present tense. Concentrate on the verbs. Think beginning, middle, end. Start as close to the middle as possible.

Close with, Why is this event so important to you?