Consider placing epigrams at the beginning of your memoir’s chapters or vignettes. (Usually an epigram is centered under the chapter title or number.)
An epigram is a concise saying that:
shines light on,
adds pizzazz or sparkle,
or enriches the important story that follows it.
An epigram can be a short poem, song lyrics, a proverb, adage, or something witty.
It can be a quotation, a Bible verse, a maxim, a pithy statement, or a prayer.
If you’re like me, you’ve saved poems and quotations—in journals, in filing cabinets, in computer documents. If you’re like me, you’ve underlined book passages, highlighted Bible verses, and memorized song lyrics.
They caught your attention for some reason. They have special meaning for you. Why?
Take time to think: What happened in your past that makes that passage poignant? What experience—what wisdom, what life-shaping event, what joy, healing, hope, what delight—does each saying point to?
If a brief quotation has a special meaning to you, you could—and probably should—write a story about it.
What about those other quotations that resonate with you? Consider writing some or all of the stories those sayings bring to mind, and place the epigram at the beginning of the story.
I gave you a long list of quotes last summer, and today I’m giving you more which might work as epigrams for your vignettes. I hope they will get your mind to humming on new story ideas:
“God gave us memories so we could have roses in winter and mothers forever.” J. M. Barrie
“In the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn't easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences . . . great sorrow and great joy are often seen to be parts of the same experience. ” Henri Nouwen
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss
“Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not what others think of us.… I am the beloved child of a loving Creator. ” Henri Nouwen
“To be loved but not known is superficial. To be known and not loved is our great fear—but to be known and loved, that transforms you.” Tim Keller
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” Harper Lee’s character Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; … who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt
“Sometimes God allows something in your life that only He can fix so that you will get to see Him fix it.” Tony Evans
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That’s the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” George R. R. Martin
“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” M. Scott Peck
“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” Mother Teresa
“The greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.” Adam Stanley
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. ” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” Pearl S. Buck
“I’ve learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.” Charles Spurgeon
“A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God, who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear.” Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” Mitch Albom
“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. ” Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude
“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing the monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” C.S. Lewis
“ … At moments of even the most humdrum of our days, God speaks.… He speaks not just through the sounds we hear, of course, but through events in all their complexity and variety, through the harmonies and disharmonies and counterpoint of all that happens.” Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey
“Sometimes life takes us places we never expected to go. And in those places God writes a story we never thought would be ours.” Renee Swope
“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” Dante
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8
Related post: Add richness to your memoir’s chapters