How to Start a Memoir? Examples from 9 Best Memoirs

Last Updated on September 24, 2022 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD


It is crucial to create a powerful opening to impact the reader from page one when writing a memoir based on your own experience. So begin your biography with a dramatic hook piques the reader’s interest. They’ll stick with you throughout the book if you can keep their attention from the beginning.

Studying to be an archeologist is comparable to learning to write a memoir. Not only must you go digging for relics from the past and sift through the sands, but you must also put it all together and figure out the plot. To help you tell a compelling story based on your own life, we will describe the nine best memoir examples to create our practical guide on how to write a memoir.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a book that describes a significant aspect of the author’s life from their perspective. While it’s often associated with autobiography, there are a few crucial distinctions. First, the author also wrote an autobiography, although the tale spans their lives. It primarily focuses on facts, the who-what-when-where-why-how of their entire lives’ lives, despite being subjective.

Autobiography vs. Memoir

We stretch the rules of an autobiography to define a memoir. Memoir writers attempt to retell a significant occurrence in their lives by picking a pivotal moment. The author’s emotions and ideas drive the story. The author has more freedom here since she is telling a tale as she recollects it, rather than what others may prove or deny, and thus her memoirs still include all the specifics of the event.

Since they concentrate on facts, autobiographies are more formal than memoirs. Since they often include plain language and chronological narration, autobiographies frequently recount events similar to or precisely how they occurred. To ensure accuracy, the facts are double-checked.

Top 10 tips on how to start a memoir

A memoir should offer an opening that is strong, interesting, and true from the beginning to the end of the first chapter. Here are some tips for starting your memoir if you’re starting as a writer:

1 – Hook readers right from the first lines

From the first page, an excellent memoir keeps your attention. Eat, Pray, Love begins with an intimate scene from Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book. She’s hoping a guy across from her will kiss her, but he’s much younger. She leaves the backstory and negative aspects for later and starts her globetrotting journey of self-discovery with a scene that grabs the reader’s interest. The book documents her life following a terrible divorce and heartache, but she leaves the past behind her and moves on with her life.

2 – Use an AI to implement ‘The Hero’s Journey steps quickly

The belief that all stories follow a similar pattern led to the creation of the hero’s journey. A hero’s journey, with obstacles and triumphs, is the pattern that comprises this pattern. Writers may create fascinating tales that connect with readers by understanding the hero’s journey. We recommend using AI templates to quickly structure your memoir based on the three elements of ‘The Hero’s Journey. 

This AI tool not only offers the ‘Hero’s Journey Recipe‘ created by its community members but can be effectively used with different templates to create a compelling story. Since there are three stages in the Hero’s Journey archetype, you can use the Blog Post Intro template and the Sentence Expander template for the ordinary world. 

Then, Creative Story templates can be used to create a unique world around the story. And, for the last Return stage of the Hero’s Journey, you can use the Blog Post Conclusion Paragraph template. 

3 – Don’t forget to bring out emotions

A narrative should attempt to elicit emotion in the reader by approaching a subject with the human element in mind. From the heart, write your initial pages. Use language that resonates on an emotional level with individuals.

4 – Start your memoir with dramatic moments

Begin your memoir on a high note with a dramatic moment. Later, you may return to the occurrence for further information, but a tasty taste of what is to come can keep the reader interested. Think of a dramatic beginning that might tease a critical turning point in the tale.

5 – Be honest and build trust with the readers

A memoir is a personal non-fiction work you’ll share with strangers. Begin by pretending you’re telling a secret to the reader that you’ve never told anybody else. Tell your tale in this way from the start. By beginning with a confidante, this strategy establishes trust and builds relationships.

6 – Lead with humor

Even when he recounts some of the saddest periods in his childhood, reading a David Sedaris book is impossible to do without laughing. So lead with humor, even if your memoir is about a more serious topic. The reader will react to various emotions, and they won’t want to be sad for the duration of the novel.

7 – Make it relevant

A narrative is centered on one occurrence when you tell it to someone else face to face. Take the same starting place with your memoir. Your whole life story is captured in your autobiography. Memoirs have a narrow scope, centered around a period or theme from the writer’s life. If they don’t fit your tale, you should eliminate them because there are a million tiny details and life experiences that might be intriguing on their own.

8 – Think like you’re writing a fiction

While a memoir is based on your experiences, it should also include the narrative aspects that make fiction enjoyable. Establishing yourself as the primary character, developing the setting, planting the source of conflict, and teasing out the primary theme are essential to remember when presenting your argument. To string out a narrative, the reader understands how to follow and build a tale structure with a powerful beginning, middle, and finish.

9 – Show your personality

You are implying to the reader that what you’re describing is an accurate portrayal of your own life from your standpoint while writing a memoir. If you’re telling tales about other people and family members who may recall things differently, it’s simple to censor yourself. For instance, you might change their names or use initials to stay true to your narrative while respecting their right to privacy. Remember to provide an honest tale, but you alone can decide what stays and goes.

10 – No need to write chronologically!

The ideal starting point may be challenging to come by when you sit down to write. Remember that you don’t have to register in chronological order if writer’s block is holding you back from your initial chapter. Come back to your beginning after you finish your first draft and start writing the part of the story that most inspires you. You’ll find the perfect opening while writing your novel.

9 Best Memoir Examples to get Inspiration from!

How do you compress your entire life story into a few hundred pages while writing a memoir? It’s a difficult task for any author. But, of course, you can use the internet to get help writing your memoir by following guidelines. Yet, other times, the old saying “display, don’t tell” is accurate, and looking at different biographies can be beneficial. 

We’ve got nine memoir examples to give you an idea of the types of memoirs that have sold well if that’s the case for you. Are your sleeves ready to be rolled up? 

1 – A Million Little Pieces by James Frey 

This book sparked controversy when it was disclosed that many of the events were made up, and one critic described it as “the War and Peace of Addiction.” (In case you’re wondering, we do not recommend deceiving your readers.)

2 – Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau went into the forest in July 1845 and stayed there for two years, two months, and two days. The result of this was the famous memoir.

3 – When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 

Paul Kalanithi penned a remarkable book that answers the impossible question of what makes life worth living when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age thirty-six.

4 – The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking describes the sadness Didion felt in the year after her husband’s death, and it is now considered a classic book on grief.

5 – Educated by Tara Westover

The relevance of education is perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from this remarkable memoir. This book tells the story of how the author overcame her upbringing and worked mountains in search of knowledge. It is about a family of religious survivalists in rural Idaho.

6 – Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl 

The tales in this book shed light on topics and motifs that would repeatedly appear in Dahl’s most beloved works: a love for sweets, a mischievous streak, and a fear of authority figures. In addition, they evoked his schoolboy days in the 1920s and 30s.

7 – Paper Lion by George Plimpton

In 1960, the Detroit Lions teamed up with author George Plimpton to investigate whether a regular guy could play professional football. His response was no, but he could convey a personal narrative of a squad from within the locker room because of his training camp experience.

8 – Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

McCourt’s book covered the finer points of his upbringing in squalid Dublin and was the first to win the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

9 – Native Country of the Heart by Cherrie Moraga

The mother is a California native who grew up picking cotton. A passionate queer Latina feminist daughter. This groundbreaking Latinx memoir about a mother-daughter relationship explores the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease by weaving past and present.


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