For my money, one of the best memoirs is And When Did You Last See Your Father by Blake Morrison. It’s a beautifully told story that, like any good memoir, crosses from the purely personal to the universal. Last year, I attended a fascinating lecture he gave at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he discussed life writing and his work in general.
About life writing, he says, “Once you begin writing, be selective. Even members of your family will find a welter of names, place names and dates too much to cope with. If your material spans several generations, try to find a theme that binds them together. Ask yourself what the “real” story is and who the central characters are.”
I know from writing The Long Road Out of Town how hard it was to nail my theme. I just couldn’t work out what the story was really about. In the end, I realised it wasn’t about what I had thought it was about when I first sat down to begin work on the book.
Here is the complete interview from The Guardian where Blake Morison talks about the craft of writing life stories.