A memoir is a first person account of an autobiographical experience that can be written in a short form like an essay or as a full-length book. What you choose as your focus for the memoir depends a great deal on the length of the manuscript you wish to write. Select a single person or a fond memory for a shorter essay or writing assignment. A longer format, such as an autobiography, allows more room to explore a theme, compiling those memories that paint a much bigger picture.
Unforgettable characters populate your life from the time you are born. How your family loved and supported you, or maybe how they didn't, is fertile ground to share in your tale of how you became the person you are. Think back to that teacher who taught you more than just a lesson plan and showed you how to passionately follow your dreams and embrace your individuality. Perhaps it was a friend who impacted your life, whether in big ways or small. A memoir teaches you how you evolved simply from the association of the people around you. You may ultimately decide to present the finished product to these important people in your life as a gift.
Other options for memoir topics include the places you've visited or lived. Writing about places as a memoir adds another layer to the information. You are not just informing your readers about the history or the sites, but giving them a first-person account of how you experienced these locations. If you have traveled extensively, you may want to use these experiences to write a longer autobiography of where you have been and what you have seen. Use a travel journal to preserve these memories and document your experiences as they occur.
Perhaps some of your significant memories are attached to specific things, such as a childhood toy, a book or your father's favorite chair. These topics are ideal for shorter formats such as essays, which can benefit from the limited focus of just one thing. Special family heirlooms, such as jewelry or quilts passed down through generations, can provide a theme for a longer format, which documents something broad like your family's history using a specific through-line. It also gives you the opportunity to learn more about your past to share with everyone in the present and the future.
Make it Personal
To choose your topic, find where your passion lies. Everyone has a story that she burns to share, and a memoir gives you the freedom to do just that. You may have survived a significant event, or undergone a trauma that taught you exactly how strong you could be in the face of adversity. The more passionate you are about the topic you choose, the more your readers will respond in kind. Because memoirs are the stories that only you can tell, the more personal your experience, the better. Memoirs are more about you than the specific topic. Find the topic that demonstrates your strengths, your struggles and your triumphs.