Memoir Basics 1: What's in a memoir?

Memoir ingredients

Introduction

What if you learned a BIG life lesson? 

We’re not talking small, specific advice like ‘Don’t eat mouldy meat’ but big understanding like ‘How almost dying from food poisoning taught me how to live a better life’. 

For example, maybe life has taught you:

  • how to work at achieving a goal
  • a better understanding of yourself and other people
  • ways to survive a bad situation, or enjoy a good one.

You think your story could help or inspire other people.

The end product would be a memoir.

Memoirs are stories where people talk about an important period in their lives. They then use that situation to tell a story about what they’ve learned about life.

Four teenage boys with a home made rocket.

Here’s an example.

Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn’t know my hometown was at war with itself over its children and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives.

Rocket BoysHomer HickmanSource
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In Rocket Boys, Homer uses his personal situation—a high schooler building rockets in a small mining town—to tell a story about believing in your dreams, being a team player, the value of hard work, and parent-child relationships. These are some of the themes of the book.

Is ‘memoir’ just a fancy word for ‘autobiography’?

In this lesson, we’re going to look at some of the unique features of a memoir. For the final task, you’ll write a passage that combines these features.

You don’t have to write about huge life lessons in this lesson, but you can:

  • write something true about your life 
  • make something up about your life, or
  • imagine someone else’s life.

Let’s go!

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