You don’t have to be famous to write a memoir but it does help if you want to write an autobiography. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write your autobiography, but if you are hoping it will reach an audience beyond your family and friends, then leave autobiographies to so-called celebrities and other famous people who have no problem filling the shelves of bookshops. Memoirs, on the other hand, are often written by people who may not have led extraordinarily interesting or eventful lives but who want to share some of their experiences with family and friends.
A slice of life
Unlike an autobiography, which is a chronological account of an entire life, memoirs are just a slice of someone’s life. A memoir can focus on challenges, conflicts, successes, triumphs, life changing events, specific times or periods, random events – in fact anything that inspires you to write. You can only write one autobiography but there is no limit to the number of memoirs you can write.
Reach out to your readers
Writing a memoir not only gives you the opportunity to capture the special moments and events in your life but it also enables you to share the feelings and emotions you felt at the time. Although a memoir is a personal account of your experiences, the story you tell should resonate with your readers. Tell them about the truths and emotions related to your experiences and how it affected your life rather than just presenting a list of dates and facts.
Be thoughtful when writing about other people
If you want to include other people in your story, use some discretion when writing about them. Their perceptions or feelings may be different to yours and so you need to make sure you don’t upset or offend them.
Put you story in context
You can put your story in context and add interest and colour by incorporating details of the world beyond your own personal experiences. For example, were there any significant political events that affected you? What were the social and economic conditions at the time?
Use story-telling techniques
A good memoir should read like a story. Although the basic elements of a story (theme, characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution) may not all be relevant or necessary, some of the best memoirs do have a fictional quality about them even though they are based on fact. One of the best ways to learn more about the style and techniques of memoir writing is to read the work of well-known and successful memoir writers. If you don’t have any specific authors in mind a search online will give you plenty to choose from.
Also check out Autobiographies and memoirs – what’s the difference?