Memoirs are autobiographical accounts of one’s life story. They can cover an entire life or focus on a few significant events in a person’s life.
They include the author’s memories, intimate thoughts and feelings about their past, and significant life experiences.
They may tell a story of the author’s secret past, the ups and downs of their love life, the most influential person in their lives, or significant life lessons one has learned through a life lived.
We write memoirs not only for others to read but to help ourselves form a narrative around our life stories.
Writing about past experiences and the personal narrative that went with them offers much insight. Writing about a time filled with struggles has even been found to help process trauma.
As far as inspiration goes, we’ve got you covered. Below we’ve included a list of over 16 memoir writing prompts to inspire you and get your creative juices flowing.
If you’re stuck, don’t fret – it’s not easy to summarize a life story the moment you sit down to write. It may take time, reflection, and inspiration before you can even begin to know what to write about.
How to write a memoir
Writing a memoir requires reflection and contemplation on one’s past experiences. These should take place before the writing process and are often the reason a person feels inspired to write a memoir in the first place.
Still, the memoir writing process is also incredibly reflective, and an author may gain insights and perspectives they never had before as a result of the writing process.
So, if you’re ready to get started on your memoir, check out the prompts below.
Memoir writing prompts and ideas
There are many possible focal points of your memoir. You can write about a time when life was sweet or you can write a powerful memoir which has made it difficult for you to live in the present moment.
Here are some suggestions of major life events to you can draw inspiration from:
1. Your first romance
Write about the first romantic partner you ever had. How did you meet them? How old were you? What was unique about your relationship? Did you end up with your first crush?
If you’re not with that person anymore, how did things end? Was there a memorable argument which led you to end the relationship? Did you ever see them again?
2. Near-death experience
Have you ever had a near-death experience? What happened, and how did you survive? Describe your experience. What was the significance of that moment? Did it give you a new outlook on life? Or was it a novel experience that lost significance after the initial event?
3. A day with your younger self
You don’t have to write memoirs chronologically, and you don’t have to confine yourself to writing exclusively about the past. Get creative by imagining that you, as you are now, can visit your younger self.
Choose any age, child, teen, or adult, and write about a day spent with that younger version of yourself. What would you tell them? Do you have insight and wisdom now that would have helped the younger you?
Consider a time in your life when you had to make an important choice. Perhaps all options were exciting and viable before you, but you had to eliminate all but one.
What decision or choice did you make, and how do you feel about it now? How do you think your life might have been had you made a different choice? Perhaps you chose one romantic partner over another or decided to live in a different country from where you were born.
5. Your earliest memory
What is your earliest memory? How old were you and who was there? How do you feel about that memory now? Do you remember it fondly, or is it a painful memory? Was it something you think defined your character, or is it simply a fun and adored memory?
What was your childhood like? Write about the household in which you grew up.
Was it a happy household, or was there a lot of trouble? Did you grow up with two parents and siblings, a single parent, or were you an only child? How did your parents relationship mold your character?
How do you feel about how you grew up, and do you ever wish things had been different? How do you think your childhood influenced the person you are today?
How was your experience in high school? Write about elementary school, high school, or college. Did you like school? Do you have a favorite teacher who has greatly influenced your life today?
What were the good parts, and what were the bad ones? How was your social life in high school? How do you feel about the education system? Do you think it served or hindered you?
If you’re spiritually minded or religious, write about your life’s experience from your spiritual perspective? Have your thoughts on God, religion, and spirituality changed?
What attitude did you hold when you were younger, and how do you see things now? Were there any significant events or an influential person that shaped your spiritual beliefs and perspectives?
9. Best friend
Write about your relationship with the best friend you’ve ever had.
Are you two still friends today? How did you two get to know each other, and what experiences have you shared? How do you feel about that friendship and friendship in general?
Did that person set a standard that no one else could ever meet? Did you two ever fight? How is the relationship now?
Do you have any regrets? Perhaps you made one choice over another and now see it as a mistake. Did you hurt anyone in your life and wish you go back and change things?
Alternatively, write about how you feel about regret as a concept by relating your perspective to your experiences. Do you think there is any value in regret? Did you regret things once but no longer?
What did you learn as a child that you had to unlearn as an adult?
Perhaps the behavior of your parents or other family members taught you that particular conduct was expected, but you realized how abnormal it was when you left home. Do you understand why that person behaved, or are you still confused? Do you forgive those who taught you unhealthy behaviors?
What makes you feel grateful? What life experiences, good or bad, happy or sad, joyous or nightmarish, taught you to look at life through a lens of gratitude? Have you always been grateful, or is gratitude something you learned later in life?
Write about the journey of discovering your sexuality.
Did you realize at some point that you had sexual preferences you weren’t clear about previously? Have you always had the sexual preferences you have now or had for most of your life?
Write about the process of discovering your sexual self and the trials and tribulations that came with it.
When you look back on your life, did it turn out how you expected when you were younger? Did you have an idea or vision of how your life would turn out at a certain age?
As a child, in your teens, twenties, or thirties, how did you imagine the life ahead of you? Is your life now an accurate portrayal of that vision, or is it different? How different is it?
15. A big impact
Write about a time you hugely impacted another someone’s life. What happened, and what is your relationship with that person now? Alternatively, write about a person who greatly influenced your life? Again, what happened, and what’s that relationship like now?
16. Life lessons
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve ever learned? What happened in your life for you to understand that lesson?
Is this lesson something you have tried to share with others? Do others hear that lesson the same way you do? Does it resonate with others? How do you think your life might have been if you had never learned that lesson?
A memoir is a deeply personal account of memories that the author, the memoir writer, believes influenced their life and is worthy of sharing with others. They are more than just a whimsical collection of stories and anecdotes, though you’re free to write with a sense of humor about your experiences.
As a writing exercise, start with a short story using one memoir writing prompt. Something about first time you set eyes on your first love will be easy. A bit more challenging memoir topic will be your family history.
If you want more help with writing your memoir, consider reading those of others. Writers of all kinds need to be avid readers to hone their craft.
Reading others’ memoirs not only shows how to structure your writing but can also inspire you to look at your own life through a reflective and insightful lens.