Memoir teaser

If someone becomes famous because of a well-publicised event, people may want to know their full story—what led to that event, what really happened, the aftermath, and their feelings and views about it all. In the case of Malala Yousafzai, she was shot by the Taliban for speaking publicly about the right for all girls to go to school.

In this snippet, Malala uses the events leading up to that moment as a teaser for her memoir. It starts with a snapshot of normal life and slowly adds hints of what we know is to come (even if you don’t know, you get the feeling something bad is going to happen). 

Short sentences and line breaks build the suspense. Just before the moment, it cuts the narrative. The ultimate teaser!

Just after we passed the Little Giants snack factory and the bend in the road not more than three minutes from my house, the van slowed to a halt. It was oddly quiet outside. “It’s so calm today,” I said to Moniba. “Where are all the people?”

I don’t remember anything after that, but here’s the story that’s been told to me: Two young men in white robes stepped in front of our truck.

“Is this the Khushal School bus?” one of them asked.

The driver laughed. The name of the school was painted in black letters on the side.

The other young man jumped onto the tailboard and leaned into the back, where we were all sitting.

“Who is Malala?” he asked.

No one said a word, but a few girls looked in my direction.

He raised his arm and pointed at me. Some of the girls screamed, and I squeezed Moniba’s hand.

Who is Malala? I am Malala, and this is my story.

Memory is an important part of a memoir and what a writer can and can’t remember is part of the storytelling. Here, Malala’s memory loss adds tension to the teaser and emphasises the shocking impact of the event.

This is true. Though the snippet text is similar to the prologue of the book, there are differences. That’s because what you’re reading here isn’t the prologue, it’s the teaser that you will find on websites advertising the book. 

While teasers don't change the facts, sometimes they'll edit what's in the book. Why? Sometimes it’s to give you only the highlights. Sometimes it’s to stop spoilers. Sometimes it’s so the passage can be read by a general audience. 

The important thing is that it gives the reader a taste of the story, to help them decide if they’d like to read the whole book.

Here is an example, using this photo as a starting point.

We all left Mr Bakshi’s fish and chip shop with satisfied smiles and were walking down the Upton jetty when Ashley looked my way. She wore an odd expression. “It’s your first time with the group, yeah?” I said to her. “Ready to take the spring plunge? It’s great fun!”

My memory may be trying to make up details to explain that day, but I swear this happened: After I said that, a tear fell from her eye.

“I don’t trust the ocean,” Ashley said, quietly.

I’m sorry to say, but I laughed at the time. We’d lived at the beach all our lives. And in the pool, Ashley could swim rings around me.

We all got down to our swim gear. The gang were laughing about how pale we all looked after being rugged up for the winter. 

I gave Ashley a wink and a friendly nod during the countdown. All at once we dived into the still cool September sea. It was bracing.

“Where’s Ash?” Tracy asked, once we surfaced.

We all looked around.

After a minute there was still no sign of her. Then two minutes. Remy yelled her name to no response, and my stomach felt like it had an ice brick inside.

Where’s Ash? I’m the one who found her, after years of searching. This is our tale.

Now it’s your turn. 

Naturally, Malala’s story is super intense but yours doesn’t have to be (even if intense things have happened to you). Pick an event that has a good ‘what happens next’ vibe. It could be something really obvious like an accident or encounter, or it could be something subtle like a change in a relationship.

Write a memoir teaser, based on either your experience, or the picture. Slowly build up to a big event with short sentences and hints and, just before it happens, entice your audience to keep reading.