Noun a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation. A memoir is a narrative, written from the perspective of the author, about an important part of their life. It’s often conflated with autobiography, but there are a few important differences. An autobiography is also written from the author’s perspective, but the narrative spans their entire life. An autobiography is your life story from birth to the present. A memoir is theme-oriented with anecdotes from your life that buttress a specific theme. Too many authors write a memoir because they believe their lives are so interesting that even strangers would enjoy a detailed account. Don’t misunderstand, maybe you are interesting.
If you are having a hard time writing your memoir, you should check out memoir examples that we've prepared for you. These wonderful samples will show you what a truly good memoir is and what it might look like. We've also explained what a memoir is, chose interesting tips, and provided a memoir essay structure for you.
📝 Memoir Definition
A memoir is an account of your experiences related to events from your personal life or history that you witnessed.
- Memoir definition is - an official note or report: memorandum. How to use memoir in a sentence.
- Memoirs are almost exclusively written from the first-person point of view. This means it comes from a singular pronoun perspective. The story comes from the narrative of “I” instead of “you” or “we.” Here are some additional characteristics to consider when composing a memoir.
A memoir is sometimes also called an autobiography, as the two terms share the same meaning to some extent.
But here’s the deal:
There is a slight difference between writing a memoir and writing an autobiography, and it is important to truly understand it in order to benefit most from reading an example of memoir.
Let’s have a look at this difference!
Memoir Versus Autobiography
|Focuses on the author’s entire life||Describes just a certain part of the author’s life|
|Tells about famous people's lives||Can tell anyone’s story|
|Is structured chronologically, covering the author’s life from birth to death||Can be focused on one or several periods and do not have a strict chronological order|
|Focus on pure fact||Carry the emotional side of life|
Writing your memoirs is an excellent exercise and a good start for a beginning author.
You can learn from it different approaches to captivating readers, develop a skill to express emotions in the right way, and train your writing style.
And what is more pleasant:
After practicing this assignment for some time, you can know how to write a memoir book.
If you want to read about other types of assignments, read Overnight Essay blog. We can also help you to write your paper of any complexity.
💡 Memoir Tips
A person who writes a memoir is a memoirist or… simply a student who has been assigned this task. No matter to which category you belong, the following memoir writing tips will help you write a killer memoir sample:
- choose an intriguing title (something like The Other Side of Me or A Day to Remember); it can help you a lot to interest the audience;
- express your personal opinions and impressions (use for instance: to my mind, in my opinion, it seems, it turned out that, etc.);
- add a lot of sensory details (for example, instead of simply stating that a girl had an angry look on her face, you can specify that her face reddened and her teeth were clenched – these are valuable observations, which can make your description more vivid);
- write about memories that are important for you – it's impossible to write a good memoir without feeling a deep connection between yourself and the situation which you describe;
- be yourself when writing a memoir – you can hide your point of view in many academic writings, but this type of work requires you to be honest and show your personal traits;
- choose a proper tone and try to maintain it throughout your memoir essay – it’s an excellent exercise to develop your writing style;
- do research, even if you remember the situation, try to collect as much information as you could, including your friends' commentaries, photos, blog posts – everything that can reveal more details;
- take care about your memoir idea – whether your writing is funny, well-structured, or creative and unusual, it means nothing if you don't put a message in it.
The most famous memoir books are based on the principles listed above. Keeping to them, you can create a masterpiece or, at least, get an A at your college.
But that isn’t all we can offer you:
You can find even more truly good ideas for your memoir in this list of informative speech topics for college students.
🖊️ Memoir Examples to Your Attention
Finally, you can observe these memoir writing examples to know how to write one yourself.
Of course, you can use these memoir ideas, but reading these samples can also give you enough inspiration to develop your own paper from the very beginning.
My Pursuit of Happiness
Actually, I started my pursuit of happiness as soon as I came into this world. My Mom says that I was an extremely capricious baby – I could cry out loud for a rather long period of time until all my demands were satisfied. A little terrorist, with large rainy eyes and a loud voice, I was! Later on, as I grew up, I preserved my willingness to do everything to get what I wanted, but I learned some new and more effective methods of achieving my goals.
I remember that, when I was 4 years old, I wanted to have a dog. Absolutely nothing, even my allergy to dogs, could prevent me from making my dream come true…
Comment: Thetitle is captivating – it sets the tone, but it does not reveal all the secrets. This example of a memoir contains some self-criticism. The author sounds truly sincere when s/he calls himself (herself) a terrorist.
A Revolution at School
The events of that sunny spring day turned out to change the course of history at our school. I am proud of being one of the revolutionaries who drove the change.
The problem was our school uniform, which was more or less bearable in winter but became a cause of students' torture in spring because it was too hot.
This is why the girls from our class agreed to wear jeans instead of the uniform one day, to show our protest against the silly school rule of wearing the uniform even when it was too hot for it. We felt a bit scared before the beginning of the first lesson. Mrs. Stone, our Geography teacher, had to be the first to see our silent protest…
Comment: The authorexpresses his/her feelings and emotions about an important event at school. Note that this sample memoir focuses more on the event than on the author's personality.
📎 Memoir about Yourself
A memoir about yourself or a personal memoir differs from just a personal essay. A memoir about yourself is a piece of writing in which a person reflects on important personal events. It is a place where the author analyzes and describes why certain events were so crucial.
But you might fairly ask: “What is the difference between a personal memoir and a personal essay?” Here is the answer!
To some extent, the personal memoir and the personal essay are pretty similar. However, there is one important difference! The essay can be a reflection on any events or just a description of anything personal. The memoir focuses on past and life-changing experiences.
In short, the personal memoir aims at answering the three questions:
- What event or events were important in the author’s life?
- Why were they so crucial?
- How they affected the author’s life?
📜 Example of Memoir About Yourself
We’ve created a great example of a personal memoir for you. Here you can see how you can structure your story and what it can be about. Let’s dive in!
The Life-Changing Morning
That morning the sky was especially grey, and the whole atmosphere did not dispose of something good. I woke up alone in my tiny flat in the middle of nowhere. It did not felt like something bad is happening or even is going to happen shortly. However, the way I felt was hard to describe. I took my morning coffee and then heard a knock on the door. It was a postman with an envelope in his hand. I opened the letter and read it out loud. It said that I was invited to the University of Oxford to study journalism. My dream came true! I was filled with happiness, motivation, and thirst to start my studies as soon as possible. I can still remember this special and life-changing moment.
Comment: First of all, the author chose the right, captivating title, which invites a reader to discover what had happened that morning. Secondly, the personal memoir focuses on the important event that had changed a young person's life. Thirdly, he reflects on how he felt when it happened.
📋 One-Page Memoir: What Is It About?
A memoir doesn’t have to be a thick book. It can be of any length and cover any important life events. Making your memoir relatively short means that you should focus on one particular event.
Memoirs Of An Invisible Man
Besides, this event should be captivating and life-changing. It would be best to tell about the emotions you experienced and what they brought to your life. The text can be concise, for instance, only 1 page. However, it should be interesting enough to evoke a reader's emotions in such a short time.
So, here is a few recommendations for your one-page memoir:
- Cover one event only.
- Choose the most captivating and life-changing event.
- Don't forget to express your emotions.
- Mention why this event was crucial for your future life.
📚 Memoir Essay Structure
If your task is to create a memoir essay, you may be surprised because itdoesn’t have any typical structure.
The way you do your memoir writing depends only on your style and preferences.
If you want to combine two different stories into one and underline the message by inferring it from both of them – do it.
If you want to tell a situation when you feel fear or anxiety, there is a nice place to put a flashback to make readers understand you better – then, do it as well.
Memoir writing structure is a field where you can apply creativity and originality.
What you must include are:
- the details of your memoir
- the message
- why this story matters to you
Other elements are free for you to add to your paper. Let your inner writer choose which of them do you need to make a memoir writing breath-taking.
So, after looking through these examples of memoirs, you have a pretty good idea of how to write your own papers in this genre. Good luck with your memoirs! We are certain that you will make them unforgettable!
Not sure how to begin your memoir? Here are several ways, plus examples from great memoirs.
Writers have long wrestled with the “how to start a memoir” question. And the truth is, there’s no single best way to begin a memoir.
The primary goal is to make the readers want more, and it can be done in many ways, whether shocking or understated, humorous or dramatic, literary or plainspoken.
In short, you want to engage your readers!
While there is no single best way to start a memoir, you can always consider beginning by making the readers:
- roll their eyes
- say “yuck!”
- wish they were there
- be very glad they are not there
- get angry with someone or something
Let’s look at examples of the first six of these “how to begin a memoir” techniques: wonder, smile, remember, worry, roll their eyes, and sympathize.
Time needed to read: 7 minutes.
How To Start a Memoir – 6 Bestselling Ways
- Make them wonder
Humans are by nature curious, so if you start a memoir with a puzzling statement, there’s a good chance people will keep reading—they’ll want to unravel the mystery.
Here are some examples of memoir openings that make the readers wonder:
• “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.” – The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. We wonder why Mom was dumpster diving, and how Jeanette will react.
• “You have to go to the ends of the Earth in order to leave the Earth.” – Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, by astronaut Scott Kelly. We wonder why he’s going to the ends of the earth, rather than strapping himself into a rocket ship and blasting off.
• “Missouri is a state of stolen names, bestowed to bring the world a little closer: Versailles, Rome, Cairo, New London, Athens, Carthage, Alexandria, Lebanon, Cuba, Japan, Sante Fe, Cleveland, Canton, California, Caledonian, New Caledonia, Mexico, Louisiana, Paris, our home.” – Bettyville: A Memoir, by George Hodgman. We wonder what all this has to do with the author, and how this list of intriguing city names will play into his life.
• “Susannah was murdered just before Christmas but I didn’t find out until after New Year’s.” – I’m the One Who Got Away, by Andrea Jarrell. We wonder who Susannah is, why Andrea didn’t know she was murdered, and what is going on.
• “A wanderer, uprooted and displaced. A nomad in both body and mind. This was what I had become since leaving China for the West. It had been fifteen years of transit, change, forgetting and adapting.” – Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China, by Xiaolu Guo. We wonder what it’s like to be a person without a place.
Beginning by making the readers wonder hooks them, hard.
- Make them smile
Working humor into the opening lines is a challenge, for you have little opportunity to set up the joke. But it’s well worth the effort – if humor is appropriate to your memoir.
Readers who smile at the opening lines will keep turning the pages, looking for more and more humor. Here are some examples of memoir openings that make the readers smile:
• “When I was nine, I wrote a vow of celibacy on a piece of paper and ate it.” – Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham.
• “I was born in the house I built myself with my own two hands. I’m sorry. That’s not true. I got that from my official Senate website. We should really change that.” – Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken.
• “Over the last year or so since I decided to write this book, people have been asking me how I have the time and why I chose to write it. The truth is, last June I was driving through a tunnel while on the phone with my agent and my cell service was spotty. I said, ‘I just got a great IKEA table for my breakfast nook.’ My agent thought I said, ‘I’ve got a great idea for my newest book.’” – Seriously…I’m Kidding, by Ellen Degenres.
Starting by getting the readers smiling makes them want to read on.
- Make them relate
We love to see ourselves in the characters we read about; it makes us feel closer to them.
That’s why starting off a memoir by describing something that many of your readers may have said, seen, or done themselves—something from their own lives—can be powerful.
Here are some examples:
• “I have a box where I keep all of the holiday and birthday and just-because cards that my friends and family send me. They are memoirs, tokens of love and thoughtfulness, and there is a part of me that can’t bear to throw them out.” – Coming Clean: A Memoir, by Kimberly Rae Miller.
• “One year ago, I was riding the train from the Portland suburbs toward downtown on a sunny fall afternoon when a pair of sparking brown eyes peeked around the corner of my book, and then quickly disappeared. A minute later, the eyes appeared for a second, and then disappeared again, and I realized the little girl sitting across the aisle was playing peekaboo with me.” – The Invisible Girls: A Memoir, by Sarah Thebarge.
• “The only bread that I knew as a child was store bought, machine made, sliced, plastic wrapped, and white. My mother insisted that my two bothers and I eat a slice of the airy bread smeared with Blue Bonnet margarine as part of our supper. ‘Eat your bread and butter and then you can go play,’ she’d say, as if it were a green vegetable. ‘Crust, too. It’s good for your teeth.’” – Bread: A Memoir of Hunger, by Lisa Knopp.
If you make the readers relate, they’ll keep reading.
- Make them worry
Readers love to be worried and frightened and horrified. Notice how the three memoir openings below capture attention by making the reader worry that something bad is going to follow:
• “I am standing in my hallway. It’s early morning, maybe five o’clock. I’m wearing a sheer white lace nightgown. High-beam, fluorescent light blinds me. ‘PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR,’ a man’s voice yells—he sounds aggressive but emotionless…I raise my trembling hands and my eyes slowly adjust to the light.” –Molly’s Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World, by Molly Bloom.
• “About two years ago I bought a euthanasia drug online from China. You can get it that way, or you can travel to Mexico or Peru and buy it over the counter from a vet. Apparently you just say you need to put down a sick horse and they’ll sell you as much as you want. Then you either drink it in your Lima hotel room, and let your family deal with the details of shipping your remains home, or you smuggle it back in your luggage for later use.” – Dying: A Memoir, by Cory Taylor.
• “Alpha Company was point that day—a hundred gaunt exhausted men, trudging through the jungle with their sixty-pound loads. The rest of the battalion, roughly four hundred strong, was strung out behind us in one long, ragged column. We have five hundred meters to go before we reach our destination—a landing zone called Albany—where we could rest.” –Baptism: A Vietnam Memoir, by Larry Gwin.
Get the readers worrying, and reading on to see what happens.
- Make them roll their eyes
People love to feel superior to others—to be voyeurs observing from a safe distance as people get themselves into trouble. Here are two examples:
• “International baggage claim in the Brussels airport was large and airy, with multiple carousels circling endlessly. I scurried from one to another, desperately trying to find my black suitcase. Because it was stuffed with drug money, I was more concerned than one might normally be about lost luggage.” – Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison, by Piper Kerman.
• “Joey Coyle was crashing. He had been high all night, and coming down from the meth always made him feel desperate and confused. When he was cranked up the drug gave him gusts of energy so great that his lungs and brain fought to keep pace. That was how he felt at night. When he slept it was usually during the day.” – Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million, by Mark Bowden.
Odd as it sounds, we get a thrill out of watching people as they circle the drain and then go down. So get those eyes rolling!
- Make them sympathize
As much as we enjoy feeling superior to others, we also like to sympathize with them. Notice how the openings below invite you to commiserate with the authors, for you know their situation is dire and not of their own making:
• “The first time Daddy found out about me, it was from behind glass during a routine visit to prison, when Ma lifted her shirt, teary-eyed, exposing her pregnant belly for emphasis.” – Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey From Homelessness to Harvard, by Liz Murray.
• “In Paris on a chilly evening late in October of 1985 I first became fully aware that the struggle with the disorder in my mind—a struggle which had engaged me for months—might have a fatal outcome.” – Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron.
• “I don’t know if I was born an alcoholic, but I was definitely born anxious. The alcoholism came to me later in life, after years of drinking to ease stress and worry, and to fend off panic.” – Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction, by Elizabeth Vargas.
The reader who sympathizes keeps on turning the pages.
It’s all about engagement
No matter how you begin a memoir, if you can engage your readers from the start, you’re more than halfway home.
Remember: Make the readers want more!
Develop an engaging opening—making sure it matches your theme—and you’ve solved the problem of beginning a memoir. For more on theme, see “How to Write a Memoir.”
Ways to open a memoir, by type of memoir
What Is A Memoir
There are different types of memoirs, including celebrity memoirs, political memoirs, and sports memoirs. Click on the links below for more examples of how to start the specific kind of memoir you’re planning to write:
And check out our article on 8 Great Ways To Start Off a Memoir.
Still not sure how to begin a memoir?
Don’t worry too much about it, and certainly don’t let it prevent you from writing. It’s perfectly legit, and sometimes a very good idea, to begin writing your memoir in the middle, the end, or in segments that you’ll figure out how to assemble later.
It you can start writing your memoir at the beginning, great!
If you can’t, equally great!
The point is to write, and keep writing. Often times, as you get further and further in your writing, your memoir’s theme emerges, then strengthens, and the perfect opening becomes obvious.
IF YOU’D LIKE HELP WRITING YOUR MEMOIR OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY…
Contact us! We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.
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Then call us at 818-917-5362, or use our contact form to send an email. We’d love to talk to you about your exciting book project!