Details that make a difference

In memoirs, authors focus on a particular period in their lives when certain people, events and places (who, what, where) were really important or memorable. But how is this different from a straightforward recount? 

Here’s a snippet that reads like a recount. But if you click on the expanders, the hidden detail makes it read a lot more like a memoir. Why? What makes the difference?

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When I was in the fourth grade, a girl came up to me in the schoolyard during recess and said, “You have the prettiest hair. Let’s be friends.” I said, “Okay.” Heck, I was glad someone wanted to be my friend. Her name was Frances. I’ll never forget Frances for as long as I live. She was thin, with light brown hair and blue eyes. She was a quiet gentle person. I was actually forbidden to play with her because she was a gentile, but I’d sneak over to her house anyway and sneak her over to mine. Actually I didn’t have to sneak into Frances’s house because I was always welcome there.

What do you think is added by the expanded text? Read each expansion and ask “What is this telling me?” Jot down your thoughts here.

Without the expansions, this snippet sounds flat. It’s a list of simple who, what, when facts. But the expansions give you a sense of why these things are important.

Memoir is a form of recount, but one of the most distinctive features of a memoir is that an author reflects on the meaning behind key people, places and events in their life.

Let’s look at this snippet in a little more detail.