Three primary formats are available to tell a creative nonfiction tale: biography, memoir, and autobiography. But memoirs and autobiographies both have a long history of being written.
But what are the obvious and practical differences between memoir vs autobiography? Memoirs are personal, first-hand accounts of a person’s life story, while an autobiography is a factual account of someone’s life. That all depends on your preference! Let’s read this PennBook blog post to find out which one might work best for you!
What is an Autobiography?
An autobiography is a self-written account of one’s life. The word “autobiography” comes from the Greek words “auto,” meaning “self,” and “bio,” meaning “life”. An autobiography is different from a biography in that it is written by the story’s subject, whereas a biography is written by someone else about the subject’s life.
An autobiography typically covers the writer’s life to the point of writing, but it can also be shorter, focusing on a specific period or event. It is usually told in the first person point of view, using the pronoun “I”, but the third person point of view is sometimes used.
While an autobiography is usually factual, it can also include elements of fiction, such as made-up dialogue or events. The goal of an autobiography is usually to provide insight into the writer’s life, thoughts, and experiences and to entertain or inspire the reader.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin and The Story of My Life (by Helen Keller) are two of the most influential and well-known autobiographies.
These autobiographies were written by historical figures who were well-known in their person’s life. The former was a founding father for the United States, and the latter was an activist, lecturer, writer, and lecturer.
Famous autobiographies include The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou).
What is a Memoir?
A memoir is a type of autobiography but usually focuses on a particular period or event in the writer’s life. The word “memoir” comes from the French mémoire, meaning “memory” or “reminiscence.” A memoir can be written about any subject, but most often, they are about events that have significantly impacted the author’s life.
Memoirs are usually written in the first person and use the personal pronoun “I.” This allows the author to share their thoughts and feelings about their describing events. While memoirs can be factual, they are often highly personal and emotional. The best memoirs offer a unique perspective on an event or time and are written honestly and in depth.
Memoir vs Autobiography: What’s The Difference?
1. Autobiography focuses currently covers the author’s life up to the point of writing. The memoirs focus only on a part author’s entire life.
Whereas there will always be exceptions to any rule, it is usually true that a memoir does not aim to be comprehensive, while an autobiography does. Autobiographers chronicle their own life. Most of the sections are discussed, although some may be more in-depth.
Memoirists often choose one aspect of their life to focus on while ignoring or summarizing the others. They may sometimes choose a subject or theme and share anecdotes that underscore the theme’s significance throughout their lives.
The critical events of Malcolm X’s life are outlined in his autobiography. Abandon me: A Memoir of Melissa Febos, on the other hand, mainly concentrates on two crucial connections (with her father and a lover).
2. Autobiography authors are famous for telling stories about the author’s entire life. Anybody can be a memoirist, whether they are famous or not.
Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is titled Long Walk to Freedom. It is .a great illustration of a guy whose life story counts because of who he is and what he has done.
Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, a Memoir of her youth, does not include any well-known figures. It tells the narrative of a regular individual. Although her childhood is quite unforgettable, she is not any more popular as a result. Memoirists who write memoirs are sometimes well-known.
3. People read autobiographies to know about an identified (probably famous people). They read memoria because they are interested in a particular subject or story or are drawn to the writer’s style.
People who want to understand more about a historical character may decide to read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. They could have heard that it is intriguing and well-written. But the main reason to read the book is to understand more about someone who has influenced American history.
Readers interested in learning more about food, body image, and weight may wish to pick up a copy of Roxane Gay’s book Hunger, A Memoir of (My) Body.
Readers interested in Gay’s writing may want to look up more of her writings online. This article is more topical and stylistically focused than examining Gay as a cultural or historical character. Memoirs read less like true stories and more like fantasy. They need to include conversation, descriptions of the scene, the main character, and other complex information.
4. Autobiographies are written in chronological order. Memoirs above all, move in time.
Readers anticipate an autobiography to begin with the author’s early years, or possibly with the life of his parents, and go through their teenage and middle years until ending at present the author is writing.
That is precisely what The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano’s Life of Olaudah Equiano accomplishes. It starts with his early years and then moves through time.
However, time management in memoirs may be laxer. The novel Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot jumps about in time and focuses more on concepts than precise chronology. A summary of Mailhot’s life events—not necessarily in chronological order—is provided at the book’s conclusion.
5. Autobiography posts a greater emphasis on facts, and how the writer fits into historical records, while memoir emphasizes personal experience and interiority.
Autobiographies may sometimes be seen as a kind of history. Historians often utilize them as sources. The stakes are more significant for autobiographers who produced history or were present at major historical events, even though memoirists and autobiographies sometimes get their facts incorrect.
In the memoir, the facts are crucial. But it is generally known that memoirists pick and choose from the details of their life to focus on a specific subject. Darin Strauss’ memoir, Half a Life: A Memoir, is based on a true story in which he accidentally murdered a student. However, it gives less attention to the historical backdrop and more attention to the emotional truth link that followed the particular occurrence.
Can We Use the Terms Autobiography vs Memoir Interchangeably?
Although they are two separate things, autobiographies, however, they are often used synonymously. Even Amazon classifies them under the same heading. They may not be the same, but you may use the terms “autobiography” and “memoir” interchangeably. A majority of folks won’t even catch your mistake.
Autobiography or Memoir: Which Should I Write?
As you choose the format for your narrative, keep the following things in mind:
- Which is more important to my story: facts or feelings? If your answer is “facts,” which means that your experience will be described using precise dates and correct information, an autobiography will be a great choice. If, on the other hand, your reaction is “emotion,” suggesting that you would want to bring events together based on emotion rather than truth, a memoir is the most fantastic choice.
- Do I want to convey a tale chronologically, or do I want to write more freely about a topic or subject? If you wish to provide readers with a timeline of your life tale, from childhood to the present, an autobiography is more common. If you were to concentrate on a specific aspect of your life and link the episodes as a series of little stories, it would sound more like a memoir.
It’s essential to remember that although autobiography and memoirs belong to separate nonfiction genres, you may blend the two in your work.
Tips on Writing an Autobiography
Start with a hook first.
It would help if you contemplated what could persuade readers to pick up your work. Being well-known may often act as a strong hook. If not, don’t be discouraged; plenty of other things might spice up your autobiography.
Did you work on the product’s development? Do you (or did you) belong to a group that readers would be curious to learn more about? Do you work in a specialized field or one that hasn’t seen a lot of media coverage? These might act as compelling reasons for readers to pick up your memoirs.
Research the topic.
You must do thorough research to ensure that your memories are accurate. Read through your old journals, perform an online search, and contact old friends to ensure you don’t forget any important details or events.
Tips on Writing a Memoir
Select a topic
Since memoir writing is all about emotional honesty, the essential piece of advice for writing one is to choose a subject from your life that you think is of sharing. Memoirs may cover a wide range of topics, including family life and health issues, and it requires a lot of passion to write compellingly about a subject.
Pay attention to the emotion
Another tip for writing a remarkable memoir is to avoid fact-heavy writing. Since memoirs are meant to be experiential and narrative, writers often become bogged down in little minutiae.
Keep in mind that readers are more interested in your memories and feelings than specific events that took place on a particular day. If you can understand this, you can create a memoir that shines.
FAQs About Memoir And Autobiography
How do you ensure your memoir is interesting to readers?
To ensure that your memoir is fascinating to readers, you should focus on writing about unique and personal topics. It would be best to avoid including too much detail or history, as this can make your story seem tedious or difficult to follow.
Instead, focus on writing clearly and concisely, and include only the most essential information to your story. Following these tips can help ensure that your memoir will be exciting and enjoyable for readers.
What are some common themes in memoirs?
There are many common themes in memoirs, including overcoming adversity, discovering one’s identity, and coming of age. Memoirs often explore universal human experiences that we can all relate to, even if we have never experienced the same events. They provide a way for us to learn about other people’s lives and gain empathy for their struggles.
What are some common mistakes people make when writing memoirs?
One of the most common mistakes people make when writing memoirs is failing to be honest with themselves. It’s easy to want to gloss over the details of our lives that we’re not proud of, but the truth is that these are often the most exciting parts of our story. Being honest about the highs and lows of your life will make for a much more compelling read.
How do you choose what to include in a memoir?
To choose what to include in a memoir, consider what themes or events from your life you want to share and what story you want to tell. You can also ask yourself what you want readers to learn or take away from your memoir. Once you have a good sense of what you want to write about, you can start planning which specific memories or stories to include.
The memoir focuses on the way an individual shares their whole life story with the world. Autobiographies are typically defined as written accounts of one’s own experiences, especially those which have been significant.
The two types of books can be hard to distinguish because they both tell a personal narrative and often overlap in content. However, memoirs tend to focus on major events that happened during or before the writer’s childhood, whereas autobiographies may start at any point in time.
Both autobiography and memoir provide readers with wisdom about how others see the world through someone else’s eyes. Still, it is essential not to confuse them when reading reviews or writing book summaries!
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