Seeing as both memoirs and autobiographies have been used interchangeably, it is important that we add substance to the memoir vs autobiography debate. An autobiography or memoir are both personal accounts of one's life.
But, what is the difference between memoir and autobiography? Well, they differ in their focus, scope, and style of storytelling.
A memoir is a narrative that focuses on a specific period, event, or theme in the author's life. It often includes reflections, thoughts, and emotions related to that period or event. Memoirs can be written by anyone, regardless of their public profile or achievements.
An autobiography, on the other hand, is a comprehensive account of the author's entire life from birth to the present. Autobiographies typically cover a wider range of topics and periods in the author's life , and tend to be more structured and chronological.
In essence, how a memoir is different from an autobiography is through the type of affluence a person has, as well as the degree of history that wants to be told! Easier to understand, right?
Unpacking How to Write an Autobiography or Memoir
We spoke about some of the differences between the contents of an autobiography and memoir. But, regarding the memoir vs autobiography structure, when writing what would you need to include. It is one thing to know the differences, but practically, how would you go about writing each of them?
Well, we are going to give you some tips on writing an engaging autobiography or memoir for self-discovery, the public, or even just as your own little challenge. Here they are:
- Scope: An autobiography covers the entire life of the author, from birth to present day, while a memoir focuses on a specific period, theme, or aspect of the author's life. By choosing your scope carefully, you can analyse the degree of detail you want to delve into!
- Perspective: Autobiographies are typically written in the first person, with the author as the narrator, while memoirs can be written in the first or third person and may have multiple narrators. This is a technical point, but is definitely one that you should note!
- Purpose: Autobiographies are often written to give a comprehensive and chronological account of the author's life, while memoirs are written to explore a specific experience or theme in greater depth.
- Tone: Autobiographies tend to be more objective and factual, while memoirs are more subjective and emotional, with a greater emphasis on the author's personal experiences and reflections. The question is then, do you want the reader to be sad while they read it?
These are the main points, as well as the differences between the two, including the approach to what needs to be included. This is the perfect reference to use if you want to establish either a memoir vs autobiography for a personal story.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Memoir and Autobiography
Still a bit confused which one you should choose. Do not fret, here at The Urban Writers (TUW) we go above and beyond to give you all the information that you need.
Naturally, there are both a myriad of advantages and disadvantages of choosing either a memoir or autobiography. We've got the information and are going to help you make the choice that may be boggling your mind. Ready for it? Here we go!
Advantages and Disadvantages of Memoirs
When we look at memoirs, there are some inherent advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a look at the advantages first. They are:
- Memoirs typically have a narrow focus: You want to create a cohesive picture, which can be done more effectively with a memoir than an autobiography.
- More creative freedom: Because memoirs are more focused, authors have more room to be creative and experiment with different writing styles and techniques.
- Heightened engagement: Memoirs can be very engaging and emotional, as they often explore the author's inner thoughts and feelings. You will most likely have your readers relating to you a lot more than just the blurting of facts associated with an autobiography.
Now that we have tackled the three main advantages of memoirs, lets hop into its two primary disadvantages. They are:
- Their limited scope: Because memoirs are focused on a specific aspect of the author's life, they may not provide a complete picture of the author's experiences or personality. This doesn't mean that they can't have a second part!
- Subjective: Memoirs are inherently subjective, as they are based on the author's own memories and interpretations of events
Advantages and Disadvantages of Autobiographies
When looking at the advantages and disadvantages of autobiographies, one could just reverse all of the above points. But, there is one advantage and disadvantage that is not necessarily applicable to a memoir.
The advantage is a sense of historical significance. Autobiographies, because of their less emotional nature and account of historical facts, are better suited as historical material which can be referenced in future generations to come.
Regarding the disadvantage, it is a degree of inaccuracy regarding the events the author is describing. Call it a bit of bias if you will. Because we are focusing on the author recalling the events, we need to remember that not everything is necessarily true. There is always a chance of inconsistencies or gaps in the narrative.
Some Memoir vs Autobiography Examples
You have now decided which type of personal story you are going to write. Good job! That is one step in the right direction. Because we are here to support you, we thought we would give you some reference material to read so you can see how bestselling memoirs and autobiographies have been written.
Regarding memoirs, one of the best to date is Becoming by Michelle Obama, Educated by Tara Westover, and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.
If you are wanting to go the autobiography route, you can get hold of The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, and Flying Free by Cecilia Aragon
Writing a memoir or autobiography is a massive undertaking, despite your reasoning for wanting to do so. But, you now know the difference between the two, what they should include, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. You can now make an informed decision of which type to choose from!
If you find yourself struggling, don't worry, we at TUW have the perfect freelancers that will help you construct a memoir or autobiography that will be remembered for generations to come! Get in touch with us today and see how we can help you solidify your footprint in history.