Differences Between Memoir & Autobiography, Which Is Traditionally A List of Facts

Tea, Cup, Rest, Calm, Afternoon, Beverage, Hot, Mug

Memoirs can be a collection of all types of writings — and even illustrations — but a Memoir is not an Autobiography, which traditionally is limited to simple facts.

For years, I thought about writing my memoir. I am a natural storyteller–it is simply part of my genetic code. I was born into a family of storytellers. I have also been through a wide of assortment of experiences, which have collectively provided me with the fodder for some good tales. Yet, before now, each of my attempts to write memoir has been doomed because I believed that Memoirs were Confessions–Confessions that were stretched across the confines of a timetable. In reality, the best Memoir writing is not a confessional and it is not a mere personal history.

What A Memoir Is Not

  • Memoirs are not the places that the writers go to hash and rehash all of the brutal and unfortunate experiences of their lives. I have tried that kind of writing, and it is like wading in quicksand. The more you stir your pity pot, the quicker you are sucked into your own deep and black hole.
  • Memoirs are also not simple histories that begin with what a writer has been told about his birth and followed by the most cogent points after that–all listed, according to a timeline.

What A Memoir Is

  • In reality, the best memoirs are not chronological at all. They are simply groups of stories that are told in a searching and reflective way.
  • Quite often, memoirs skip all around the writer’s history.
  • In one chapter, stories from several times during a person’s life may be pulled together around one theme.  An entire memoir may examine several themes.
  • Memoirs may ask more questions than provide lists of facts. Through a person’s memoir, we are allowed to listen to the writer as he thinks–as he processes and tries to make sense of some of the events of his life.
  • Memoirs are also invitations into the writer’s heart. While an autobiography might be a cold and precise treatise–much like a textbook or a history book–good memoirs tend to be written more creatively–using figures of speech, poetic devices, etc. The facts are not made up, and liberties are not taken when repeating them. They are simply laced together with fine and textured thread.

Skills Needed for Writing Memoir

In my experience, some important skills are needed for writing Memoir.

  • The writer needs to be able to recall actual things that have happened to him during the course of his lifetime.
  • The writer needs to learn to write more sensitively and more creatively.
  • The writer needs to learn to actually see several times during his past.
  • The writer needs to learn to paint what he sees with words.

Take the Jacki Kellum 6-Word Memoir Challenge to Help Learn to Write Descriptive Memoir

Day 1 Step 1 of the 6-Word Memoir Challenge is Here

©Jacki Kellum February 24, 2016



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