How to write a memoir essay


A memoir essay is the academic assignment that entails writing about past events in your life, including:

  • Fascinating stories;
  • Important life lessons;
  • Miraculous rescues or recoveries;
  • Other intriguing personal experiences.

Unlike autobiographies, this paper isn’t designed to describe the whole life, and it’s concentrated on some milestones while depicting them from your point of view. Some students think that memoir essays are very easy to write, but they’re wrong. When they start writing, many of them are faced with quite a daunting task of telling life stories in a few pages. How to write a memoir essay? This helpful guide will tell you the right answer.

Basic steps for writing your memoir essay


Determine the main goal for writing this paper and how you will achieve it. For example, you may want to share your knowledge or wisdom, entertain readers, leave some heritage, and try to learn more about your personality and past behaviors. Consider the most remarkable events in your life and anything from critical decisions and conflicts to interesting lessons and beliefs because they all can be used as a helpful basis for your essay writing.

Think about people who will be mentioned in your paper and prepare backgrounds for them. You should notify them all about your intention to include them in your memoir essay because some of them may not be willing to be literary characters. Memoirs are never based on fiction events because they’re focused only on real experiences. Ensure that all dates, events, and facts that you include are accurate and true. Organize all materials that you want to use and determine their right order to be displayed and presented.

Write the first draft and keep in mind that it may turn into a lengthy and complex process. Everything depends on the amount of information that you use, free time that you have, and literary skill levels. At this stage of your essay writing process, make the first draft without being concerned with many details. When it’s finished, proofread and edit everything. You may ask other people you know to read over your memoir essay because they will help you make the necessary corrections.

Topic selection for your essay

Students write memoir essays for different reasons, including sharing, fixating, rethinking, and analyzing past events in their lives. This type of academic writing refers to significant moments, so your choice of a topic depends on the length of your assigned paper. There are many possible topics to be considered, including:

  • Vivid events from your childhood;
  • Significant goals or achievements;
  • Special people you will never forget;
  • Your trip to any exotic place with surprising adventures;
  • Overcoming obstacles in your life;
  • Terrible or unpleasant events that turned out to be beneficial;
  • Your story of either personal success or defeat.

Key points to consider

It’s possible to write only one autobiography because you have only one life. However, you can write many memoir essays because your life is full of interesting and unexpected events to be shared with others. This paper is a sort of your autobiographical novel, but it’s less formal than your autobiography. Another major difference is that it has a different structure. Sometimes, it can be hard to grasp all interesting moments in your life that you want to describe. One of the easiest methods to achieve this goal is to divide your lifeline into special periods to observe each one separately. Your honesty is an important element to write a successful memoir essay. You need to be honest not only with the audience, but also with yourself. Keep your notebook close to you when completing this assignment because you will always be able to write down interesting observations or ideas that can become useful materials for your essay.

Memoir writing do and don’t


Read the memoir essays written by other students, especially if they’re successful, as they will help you learn a lot. For instance, it’s possible to write the best writing techniques and tools. Create vivid descriptions and set a regular schedule for the number of pages or words that should be written on a daily basis and adhere to it. You also need to set a specific time for writing exercises.

Write the personal story that is interesting for other people to read, and this means that it should contain enough tension and conflict. Inform other people about their presence in your writing work because some of them may not want to be mentioned. Alter their names or use pseudonyms when needed. Write about your unique and significant personal experiences and make sure that your chosen event is worth mentioning in this paper.

Things to avoid in your memoir essay

Avoid writing this paper chronologically because some of the most interesting books and thrilling movies start from the most intriguing or turning moment and their culmination before returning to the beginning to show the audience how things came to this point. This simple and effective writing technique will help you capture the attention of all readers from the first line and make them want to find out more.

Don’t worry about any punctuation, stylistic, and grammar mistakes when writing the first draft. If you start editing your memoir essay simultaneously while writing it, you’re quite likely to lose its main point and go into unimportant details. Avoid getting attached to any specific format because it will only limit your creativity. Don’t include any minor detail because some life aspects aren’t necessary to be described in your paper. Avoid writing it as your autobiography because your memoir essay is heavily based on personal emotions and feelings. Focus it on specific reflections, attitudes, and moods toward specific life events.

Common mistakes when writing memoir essays

  • Ignoring story details only because they can hurt other people;
  • Doing your best to write perfectly and focusing too much on ideal writing;
  • Forgetting to include the backgrounds of other people involved in the story that you’re telling readers;
  • Depicting yourself as a flawless person;
  • Forgetting to describe the feelings of characters who appear in your memoir essay.

Be polite when writing about others in your paper. However, it’s senseless to worry that they may feel uncomfortable due to the facts depicted in your memoir. Feel free to change their names and rearrange specific details or circumstances. Don’t ignore a perfect story idea only to spare the feelings of other people.

It’s not necessary to tell readers your full biography, but your essay should be clear. It may be tempting to picture yourself as a worthy hero, but it distorts the reality if it’s not true. Analyze your personal drawbacks and flaws to expose them along with positive traits and show readers that you understand them. They will appreciate your sincerity because purely good characters look boring and false. Keep in mind that the expression of human emotions is one of the most important aspects of writing a memoir.

The structure of your memoir essay

As you already know, a memoir essay is your personal narrative that should include the reflective element focused on a major theme or motif. Be sure to structure all paragraphs correctly to earn high marks. When writing the introduction, include these elements:

  • A hook that states your personal story and grabs readers’ attention;
  • Setting the scene and providing the information necessary to understand this story;
  • Your thesis statement to identify the main theme that connects it to readers.

The main body should consist of the following:

  • Plot, including a beginning, middle and end;
  • Showing instead of telling and using sensory details to let the audience to imagine the entire scene;
  • Smooth transitions to connect all essay paragraphs to each other.

A concluding paragraph of your memoir essay should contain the main theme and its reflection while answering a few basic questions:

  • How did this event affect your whole life?
  • What important lessons did you learn?

Do research on yourself to come up with some interesting ideas to be included in your memoir essay. Select a climax because this paper should be focused on the life experiences and events that hold their particular significance, unlike straightforward personal essays. Although some memoir essays aggrandize their writers, most readers connect passionately to the frank words that offer real-life scenarios and resonated characters. By its nature, this academic assignment is shorter, but they still require honesty and your own voice. Finally, you should be critical when writing and editing this paper, which may turn into a daunting task. Be sure to do a good job at picturing yourself and sharing the intended message.

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