“Our best stories evoke an emotional response, touch a deep cord, and motivate action and change,” writes Peter Guber, famous storyteller.

Think about a time when a story—a book, a movie, a speech, a personal conversation—brought you to tears. That’s what Peter Guber is talking about: That deep emotional response

Ask yourself how that changed you, that story that made you cry. If you set aside time to ponder that, you’ll probably come up with the answer.

Similarly, if a reader makes an emotional connection with you by reading your memoir, he will do more than keep reading. He will also become a different, better person for having read it.

Your job, then, as a memoirist, is to tell your story in such a way that readers get stirred up inside and respond emotionally. Your job is to make your story so impactful that it inspires action and change.

One way to do that is to follow Wilkie Collins’ advice: “make ‘em cry, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em wait

For the past few weeks, we’ve considered how to make readers laughIf you missed those posts, click here

Now we’re going to look at how to “make ‘em cry” because that, too, is important in creating a relationship between you and your readers

But first, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Sometimes people wonder—mainly men, I suspect—why we should include sorrows and struggles and tears in our memoirs.

The reasons are many: “Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our liveswrites Henri Nouwen

If Nouwen is right, then what are our suffering and pains?

Let’s look back. If we look back and reflect and examine, we’ll recognize that often during our hardest times, we learned our most important lessons

Difficulties can get our attention when we’ve been in denial.

They can make us cling to God.

They can give us a holy discontent over things that are not right in our lives—and inspire us to change

Sorrows can be the stuff of turning points and second chances.

They can lead to personal victories.

And then sharing those stories can benefit readers. When we make ourselves vulnerable and write about our hurts, readers recognize they have something in common with us

That, in turn, invites them to enter into our stories and learn lessons for themselves through our experiences because:

Stories can be a stand-in for life, allowing us [readers] to expand our knowledge beyond what we could reasonably squeeze into a lifetime of direct experience . . . . We can take in the stories of others . . . [and have] opportunity to try out solutionsPeter Guber

Always remember this: God can use your story. That’s why the Bible teaches us to tell our stories

Go tell your family everything God has done for you (Luke 8:39).O God, let each generation tell its children of Your mighty acts; let them retell stories of your power (Psalm 145:4).Always remember what you’ve seen God do and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren (Deuteronomy 4:9).

Next week we’ll take a deeper look about how to “make ‘em cry,” but for now, experiment.

Go back in time, re-live one or more sad parts of your story and jot down thoughts and reactions and questions and fears and prayers

Reconstruct your experience for readers.

Keep in mind you’re working on a rough draft. You can revise it later but for now, get something in writing

You can do this!

Did you miss our previous article…