The memoir has become a very popular way to discuss the lessons learned over the course of a life. In one way, it’s a creative nonfiction narrative. In another, it includes certain fictional elements in the way the story is constructed so that readers from all walks of life can related to the story.
Before writing a memoir, a writer must decide what type of memoir they wish to offer to readers. Each of the seven types of memoirs below has its own advantages. Which one of these types of memoirs could be right for you?
#1. Confessional Memoirs
This unique type of memoir focuses on what the writer feels like are the wrong actions or decisions they took in life. It is a lot like someone entering a confessional booth to talk to a priest about their sins, which is how this memoir got its name.
After discussing the decision or actions, the writer would then use the memoir to talk about how they made amends with those involved and how the process eventually changed their life for the better.
#2. Personal Memoirs
This has been traditionally the most popular type of memoir. It offers a glimpse at the writer’s personal life in a certain segment of time. It may be an adventure that they had, an illness they had to fight, or a divorce they had to endure.
The personal memoir always focuses on:
- a specific experience or event
- why that event may have occurred
- what the writer learned after the situation resolved
#3. Portrait Memoirs
This unique type of memoir is the only one that is written by someone other than the actual person. It’s based on the experiences or events of a person who has documented them thoroughly in some way.
If someone found a diary, for example, they could begin to write this type of memoir based on what the diary writer had included within their narrative.
The writer of a portrait memoir does not include their own thoughts or feelings – only what they have found in their research is included.
#4. Professional Memoirs
This type of memoir is written from the perspective of the writer’s professional life. If someone was a politician, for example, they might write a memoir about their time in public office.
A writer might offer a memoir about their experiences of trying to get their first novel published. Some memoirs in this category are written for the purpose of forming a historical record of events. Others may be written as training materials for other employees.
At the end of the day, however, this type of memoir still needs to offer a story arc and thesis to keep the reader engaged.
#5. Public Memoirs
Some people live their lives in a very public way. Celebrities would be associated with this type of memoir, but so would anyone that lives their life in the public eye on a regular basis.
The public memoir is a little different because the goal is to let readers get to know the writer in a more personal way than the public lens allows. There are more thoughts, opinions, feelings, and points of view included in this narrative without the need for a comprehensive story arc.
#6. Transformational Memoirs
This is one of the most common types of memoirs today. Transformational memoirs include:
- coming of age memoirs
- overcoming addictions or challenging circumstances
- embracing religion or spirituality and the changes that decision helped to create
Significant events and experiences that helped to shape the writer are important elements in this type of memoir. A transformational memoir should also include what the writer found or learned at the end of the journey during the quest for transformation.
#7. Travel Memoirs
Some writers have had notable experiences while traveling. Others may have started traveling just so they could have those experiences.
This type of memoir focuses on the personal adventure of the situation and challenges the writer may have faced and overcome. Imagine climbing Mount Everest and dealing with the cold, wind, and low oxygen near the summit. What were the writer’s thoughts, feelings, and choices during this difficult time? That’s what makes this type of memoir stand out.
Which type of memoir is right for you?
All of these different types of memoirs can then be broken down into sub-types based on writer preference. You can even decide to create your own type of memoir to suit your needs. That way you can narrow down the many different ways to write a memoir to the one way that is right for you.