The story idea:
Most story ideas begin with a “What If” statement.
What if you fell down a hole into a strange new world? (Alice In Wonderland)
What if you received a two-minute glimpse of your future?? (Flashforward by R.J. Sawyer)
Write the “What If” statement for your story.
Essentially your story is about people, and what they will do when put into in a certain situation.
Who is your heroine? Who is your hero? What is their relationship to each other?
List 5 personality traits for each of them, that make them interesting, unique, and likeable (they don’t have to be completely likeable, but there has to be at least one thing about them that is). List one bad trait (his/her weakness). What does each of them want (his/her goal in the story)?
Conflict occurs when your protagonist(s) can't achieve his/her/their goals for some reason.
Why are their goals particularly hard to achieve? What or who is preventing it, and why?
List 2 or 3 complications that arise as the characters pursue their goals.
What conflict happens at the beginning of the story to start the whole journey?
How do you think it will end (optional - some pantsers don't like to know the ending before they write it.)
Now, what if you're writing a memoir?
Most memoirs are about something difficult or life-changing that happened to the author. An auto- biography goes from birth to death, but a memoir is about one part of your life: what happened, why, how you dealt with it, and your reflections on how it changed you.
To get at what part you want to write, where to start and end, ask yourself these questions:
What is the hardest or most life-changing thing that’s ever happened to me? When and how did it start?
If your challenge is a life-time condition, begin your story at an all-time low point, when you finally were forced to come to grips with it, and end at a high point, when you realized you could deal with it. You can still weave in anecdotes from earlier years as backstory.
You are the hero or heroine, but don’t forget that your reader doesn’t know anything about you. Write down 5-10 personality traits that are relevant to this experience. Traits that got you into it, traits that helped you get through it, and traits that changed because of it.
What did you want at the beginning and what did you want at the end (your goals)?
Complications: Why were your goals particularly hard to accomplish? What problems arose?
Who went through this with you? How did they help or hinder you?
What did you learn? Or another way of putting it, How did you change?
And there you have it: how to prepare to write your story or memoir, even if you're a pantser (or just a procrastinator, like me!)