The Difference between a Memoir and an Autobiography

memoir vs autobiography- THE GHOST BOOK WRITERS

There are books written for science. Others for religion, inspiration, fiction, education, and recording history. The types we discuss today fall somewhat into the last category.

Both memoirs and autobiographies record the history of a certain person. So, it’s completely natural to get confused between the two due to their similarities. However, there are indeed some differences that have separated these two chapters of one book into different pages of human understanding.

Let’s have a detailed look at what makes each book type unique in its own way. We’ll begin with memoirs and then talk a bit about autobiographies. Let’s begin.

What is a Memoir?

The term memoir means memory; it comes from the French word “mémoire”. A memoir is a collection of narratives of an individual’s life, specifically about their experiences, events, feelings, etc from their life. The individual here emphasizes on their personal life, usually about their family, difficult journeys and experiences, collected in a form of essays. For instance, a popular memoir is Educated by Tara Westover, where she tells the story of journey from an isolated upbringing to achieving a PhD in history at Cambridge University.

The Structure of a Memoir

There is no one particular way to structure a memoir. Writers can structure it differently according to their personal preferences, like creating variations with the way they order the events, which tense they use, create short or long chapters, and so on.

However, a memoir is required to include the below factors:

  • A particular theme
  • First person writing style
  • The author’s life-changing experience
  • Relatability with the readers

Moreover, some memoirs consist of flashbacks for comparisons, i.e. the contrast between the present and the past by providing relevant context. A memoir also includes challenges that the author overcame. And, last but not the least, a chronological order is recommended to help the readers keep track of the author’s experiences. But you don’t have to add every event of your life.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Memoirs

A memoir is more focused in comparison to an autobiography. This means you formulate a coherent and balanced narrative here, which is not evident in the latter.

Additionally, since a memoir is more coherent, the author has a better opportunity to experiment with different techniques and be as creative as possible.

Memoirs also give you the freedom to combine fact with fiction to get readers connected with extreme emotions. It’s a way to dive into the author’s feelings with more relatability.

Yet, this is kind of a double-edged sword. You also lose authenticity since you’re not entirely factual about the events you talk about. Plus, since memoirs are limited, you can’t put your entire life’s story out there for people to see. So many people miss out on the full picture of your life experiences.

Finally, they’re very subjective in the sense that they consist of interpretations by a single individual only, not backed or verified by others.

What is an Autobiography?

An autobiography consists of an individual’s account of their life. Generally, it sheds light upon the entirety of the author’s life in detail. The process is laid out in a chronological order and the facts mentioned are reviewed by other people as well for authenticity. As such, autobiographies are quite often used by historians for references.

Perhaps a good example would be Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, where he documents the events of his life and the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Structure of an Autobiography

As of now, there are two mainstream structures for autobiographies. Both of them follow common storytelling techniques but differ in some ways.

  1. The Chronological – Autobiographies, commonly, follow a chronological order such as laying out the foundation first by talking about one’s childhood memories, friendships, and family life. The author, then, moves on to significant moments which highlights their achievements. And it ends with the lessons learned after experiencing the problem. It’s traditional; it’s straight forward; it’s what most readers expect.
  2. The Emotion Driven – On the other hand, some autobiographies begin with their struggles, then the childhood memories, and conclude with the ways they grew personally. This format incites curiosity within the reader, making it difficult to stop reading.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Autobiographies

To think about it, you can just reverse the ups and downs of memoirs mentioned above to get those of autobiographies.

Every autobiography has a historical importance attached to it. Since autobiographies have less to do with the emotions of an author and more with historical facts, they are a better choice for historians.

On the other hand, autobiographies might still be a tad bit inaccurate. Since we are depending on the writer for the recalling of events, it is very much possible that they might not remember each detail accurately. Plus, there are always chances of bias.

In addition to that, they’re longer for authors to write, and readers to go through. So, there’s that.

Want Yours Written At A Good Price?

Understanding the subtle distinctions between memoir vs autobiography helps you get a good start. But whether you go for a memoir or an autobiography, writing a book can be challenging. You may not have the right skills to begin or encounter creative blocks. Heck, you have may everything down, except the time to actually write what you’d planned.
If any of that applies to you, we can help you through the process. So, reach out to The Ghost Book Writers to get your book written the right way at the right cost.

The Difference between a Memoir and an Autobiography


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