Memoir vs Autobiography

Memoir vs Autobiography

Is there a difference? The answer is a big YES! In fact, writing memoir is closer to writing fiction than it is to Autobiographical Writing. Except of course, in memoir you are writing the truth, not fiction. So what is the difference? And how do you define your Memoir?

Defining your genre is an important element from the start of your memoir writing journey. It cannot be a mixed bag. Outlined below are the main differences between writing Memoir and writing Autobiography:

1.Memoir (like fiction) is story led: autobiography is not.

2.Autobiography is written, usually from an early point of the person’s life, to a given point in time. It encompasses perhaps hundreds of people, places and event in the writer’s entire life.

3.Memoir is subject led, based on a particular subject matter from the writer’s life, at any age, ie:

  • A war veteran and how he or she survived during and after a war
  • Growing up with hippy parents, living life on the road
  • Living in a small community in a minority race and the effect this had on adult life
  • Overcoming an illness
  • Growing up in the deep south in the 1960’s

So in effect, a person (generally) only has one autobiography, but they could have many memoirs to write. (States people and celebrities for instance, could have a few autobiographies).

Memoir is about you, the hero or heroine of the story. The reader learns about your life, through a particular subject matter – about your feelings, the decisions you did and did not make, and how you overcame the challenges that subsequently made you who you are.

In Autobiography, the reader would not come to know the person as deeply as they will though reading memoir. Feelings are not communicated in depth. It is more about your overall life and the influences that shaped your world.

Happy Writing!

Sin a bhfuil anois. (that’s it for now)

Irene G.

The Creative Writer’s Workshop
The Memoir Writing Club

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