Writing Your Memoir: Let’s Get Complicated


Rookie writers may not understand the difference between being dramatic and being interesting. Stories thrive on conflict and the perception might be that more problems add excitement to the story. Too much conflict exhausts the reader and dilutes the potency of your tale. Complications, rising and minor, can serve to build tension and sympathy for the protagonist if not overused.

Blood on the pages

Conflict is the essence of every story. As humans, we seek to maintain a middle ground between content and stressed. No one watches reality shows to see kumbaya moments. Humans crave emotional or literal blood, as long as it is not happening to them. Complications must start off small and then continue to build all while remaining realistic. Keep in mind predictable is not the same thing as organic.

Forget the obvious

Mistaking a love interest hugging a woman that will eventually turn out to be his sister or cousin is tedious. In order to develop a sense of credence, the complications should not be rushed or be overwhelming in numbers. Examples of complications, not conflict, include waking up late, missing the bus, and getting to work late all on the day you have the biggest presentation of your life. True conflict is whether you can deliver your best despite a series of minor obstacles that have shaken every fiber of your being.

Triumph and setbacks

Minor conflicts must strike a balance between small triumphs and discouraging setbacks. Maybe when you miss the bus, you manage to get the neighbor you have been lusting over to give you a ride. This is a perfect solution until the dog that your are pet sitting escapes, causing your neighbor and you to chase the yapping creature frantically before the notorious cat that lives in the park kidnaps him in hopes of world domination. Once you catch the pooch in the nick of time, you have a triumph in relation to the setback of him escaping.

Gray is the new maybe

The best complications and conflicts have no right answers. You could have left the dog alone and continued on your way. It may have been disappointing to the readers, but if you made a concession like getting the neighbor to promise that they would retrieve the canine after dropping you off it would be feasible. Having a gray area rather than stark black and white allows the readers to have an emotional reaction to your choice. This reaction is always desirable; you want people talking about your memoir.


Avoid overly predictable situations. Readers should not roll their eyes because your story is just a repeat of everything else. They should cheer you on as the complications add tension to the story and allows them to emotionally invest in your triumph.

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