As always, I recommend using a single point rubric for this.
Once the parameters of the assignment have been explained, have students read at least one model story, a mentor text that exemplifies the qualities you’re looking for.
In the “real” world of writers, though, the main thing that separates memoir from fiction is labeling: A writer might base a novel heavily on personal experiences, but write it all in third person and change the names of characters to protect the identities of people in real life.
Another writer might create a short story in first person that reads like a personal narrative, but is entirely fictional.
Then there are unique books like Curtis Sittenfeld’s brilliant novel American Wife, based heavily on the early life of Laura Bush but written in first person, with fictional names and settings, and labeled as a work of fiction.
The line between fact and fiction has always been really, really blurry, but the common thread running through all of it is good storytelling.
Use a diagram to show students a typical story arc like the one below.
Then, using a simple story—like this Coca Cola commercial—fill out the story arc with the components from that story.
“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” This proverb, attributed to the Hopi Indians, is one I wish I’d known a long time ago, because I would have used it when teaching my students the craft of storytelling.
With a well-told story we can help a person see things in an entirely new way.