Three Types of Autobiographical Writing

There are numerous types of autobiographical writing to choose from when you decide to write about your life. Depending on what you want to include and where you want to put the emphasis, there are different structures you can follow in your writing.


If you are famous and you know that people would be interested in your life story, then you can write a full autobiography and cover your life from when you were born until today. Turn back time, dig deep and track down all the things that made you who you are. Find out the meaning of your life. Let everyone know the real you; give your readers inside information. If you are distinguished and well known for what you have accomplished, then there is an audience for your autobiography and it probably will be published.


A memoir revolves around a specific time, place or relationship. More limited than the autobiography, it focuses on an important part of your life. It can be a coming-of-age memoir, focusing on your childhood years that made you who you are now. It can be a memoir of place, focusing on your hometown or a place you loved and where you spent a significant part of your life. It can be an ecological memoir and give your life from a spiritual point of view, or it might be a philosophical memoir and show the world through your eyes. It can be a historical memoir and focus on your life's facts given in the form of reportage, or it can be a portrait and revolve around a relationship that shaped you as a person, inspired you or changed you.

Personal Essay

One of the oldest forms of autobiographical writing, the personal essay originates from Plutarch. The most intimate and artistic of the three types, the personal essay does not focus as much on the story as it does on style and tone. Characterized by its honesty, it revolves around a specific part of your life, which it explores in depth. When writing a personal essay, you are called to present an aspect of your life or a journey combined with your thoughts and emotions, personal discoveries and realizations.


An example of a full autobiography is Elia Kazan's "A Life." A famous memoir is "New York Days" by Willie Morris, in which the author focuses on his time in New York. Diane Ackerman has written one of the most popular personal essays, "A Natural History of the Senses."

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