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15 Autobiography Examples to Inspire Your Own

POSTED ON Oct 25, 2023

Nicole Ahlering

Written by Nicole Ahlering

So you’re ready to write an autobiography ! Congratulations; this can be a gratifying personal project. And just like any creative endeavor, it’s a great idea to start by getting inspired. 

In this article, we’re sharing 15 stellar autobiography examples to get your wheels turning. We’ll also share some need-to-know info on the different types of autobiographies and autobiography layouts, and we’ll leave you with a list of catchy ways to start your book. Let’s get going!

Get Our 6″ x 9″ Pre-Formatted Book Template for Word or Mac

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In this article, we'll explore:

What are the different types of autobiographies .

As it turns out, there are many different ways to write a book about yourself. You can go the traditional autobiography route, which is a chronological account of your entire life. Or you can write a memoir , which zeroes in on specific themes or time periods in your life. 

If you’d like, your autobiography can be composed of individual personal essays, or you can blend your autobiography with literary techniques to create a piece of creative nonfiction . 

There are graphic autobiographies that use comics or other combinations of images and text to illustrate your life story, or you can simply publish an edited version of your journal or diary . 

You can write a travelog that documents your life through your adventures or blend elements of your life with made-up stories to create autobiographical fiction . 

When it comes to sharing your life story, there are few rules!

How can I lay out my autobiography? 

Did you know there are multiple ways you can structure your autobiography? The most common is to put it in chronological order . But you can also lay out your book in reverse chronological order or even jump around in time .

Here are a few other layouts to consider: 

  • Thematic or topical . As you outline your autobiography, pay attention to themes that emerge. You can lay out your autobiography by central ideas rather than by time. 
  • Flashback and flash-forward. This nonlinear approach can be a great way to create some excitement and intrigue in your life story.
  • Cyclical structure. Is there one event that you feel defined your life story? Why not try circling back to it throughout your book? This can be an interesting way to demonstrate how your perspective changed with time. 

If you need a little more help laying out your autobiography, we have free autobiography templates and free book templates to help you. 

Related: 50 Eye-Catching Autobiography Titles

15 Autobiographies to inspire your own 

Ready to get your creative juices flowing? Here are some examples of autobiography to add to your reading list. 

1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Autobiography Examples-The Diary Of A Young Girl

One of the best-known autobiographies, The Diary of a Young Girl, is an excellent example of a journal-style layout. Featuring the story of a young girl who is hiding during the Holocaust, aspiring writers will find inspiration in Frank’s raw emotions and candor. 

2. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda 

Autobiography Examples-Autobiography Of A Yogi

A favorite of Steve Jobs, this autobiography details the author’s spiritual journey through yoga and meditation. It’s a wonderful example of how to blend the recounting of events with spiritual insights and philosophical teachings. 

3. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela 

Autobiography Examples-The Long Walk To Freedom

The former South African president wrote this stunning autobiography about his struggle against apartheid, his imprisonment, and his presidency. Aspiring autobiography writers who want to write a book about social change should read this one. 

4. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

Autobiography Examples-The Story Of My Experiments With Truth

In his autobiography, Gandhi explores his philosophy of nonviolent resistance through his political and spiritual journey. Writers will appreciate this book for the way it weaves stories of personal growth into a larger narrative of social change. 

5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Autobiography Examples-I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

One of several autobiographical works by Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores her coming-of-age experience amidst racism and a traumatic childhood. Writers should read this to hear Angelou’s powerful story and be inspired by her vivid language. 

6. The Story of My Life by Hellen Keller

Autobiography Examples-The Story Of My Life

Keller details her remarkable life as a deaf and blind person, sharing intimate details about her education and advocacy work. Aspiring writers will benefit from reading Keller’s sensory-rich language since she has the unique experience of navigating the world through touch.

7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

Autobiography Examples-The Autobiography Of Malcolm X

This autobiography, written in collaboration with journalist Alex Haley, tracks Malcolm X from his youth through his adulthood as a prominent activist in the civil rights movement. Read this one to learn tips and tricks for writing about your personal evolution. 

8. The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow 

Autobiography Examples-The Story Of My Life

Darrow shares his experiences as a civil libertarian and prominent American Lawyer in this enlightening autobiography. Writers should read this one to learn how to build a persuasive argument in their book. 

9. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah 

Autobiography Examples-Born A Crime

South African comedian, television host, and political commentator Trevor Noah wrote this autobiography detailing his upbringing during apartheid in South Africa. This is a must-read for writers who are looking to infuse humor into their autobiographies—even when writing about heavy subjects . 

10. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Autobiography Examples-I Am Malala

In her autobiography, Yousafzia recounts her tumultuous and sometimes terrifying journey advocating for equal education for girls. If you want to write your own autobiography, read this one first to learn how to bring an authentic voice to your narrative. 

11. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Autobiography Examples-The Hiding Place

Boom’s autobiography shares the harrowing story of her family’s efforts to hide Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Writers should read this to witness how Boom weaves a historical narrative into her life story. 

12. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie 

Autobiography Examples-Agatha Christie: An Autobiography

Renowned mystery writer Agatha Christie took time away from her suspenseful novels to write a book about herself. If you plan to write an autobiography, read Christie’s first to learn how to build a sense of intrigue. 

13. Chronicles: Volume 1 by Bob Dylan 

Autobiography Examples-Chronicles Volume 1

If you’re an artist writing your autobiography, you’ll be inspired by Dylan’s. It shares his unique perspective on the creative process in music and literature and delves into what it means to maintain your artistic vision. 

14. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 

Autobiography Examples-When Breath Becomes Air

This well-known autobiography may make you cry, but it’s well worth the read. Written by a surgeon as he faces a terminal illness, it’s a must-read for any author exploring themes of mortality in their writing. 

15. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama 

Autobiography Examples-Dreams From My Father

This autobiography by the former U.S. president is a great read for anyone aspiring to write an autobiography that intertwines their personal story with a larger societal and political narrative. 

  • 31 Best Autobiographies
  • 30 Celebrity Autobiographies

What is a catchy autobiography introduction? 

Sometimes the hardest part of a new project is getting started. If you’re ready to begin writing your autobiography and need a good opener, here are some angles to consider: 

  • Start by describing a childhood dream and how it influenced your journey. 
  • Open with a letter to your younger self.
  • Share a formative childhood memory. 
  • Start with a thought-provoking question you’ll answer as your book progresses.
  • Talk about an object that’s meaningful to you and tie it to a larger story about your life.

With so much inspiration and so many wonderful resources, there’s never been a better time to write your autobiography. If, after reading a few books on this list, you’re not sure where to start with yours—let us help! Just sign up for a book consultation to get started.


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How To Write An Autobiography

Autobiography Examples

Nova A.

Top Autobiography Examples & Samples For Your Help

Published on: Sep 10, 2021

Last updated on: Feb 12, 2024

Autobiography Examples

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An  autobiography  is a story of a person's life written down or told. They are interesting to read, but they can be even more interesting to write.

An autobiography is different from a biography. A biography is someone else's story about a person's life. But, an autobiography is the person's own story about their life.

This may make autobiographies more interesting to read than biographies. Also, they give the thoughts and feelings of the person rather than someone else's interpretation.

There are many different stories in the world. Uniquely telling your story is not easy. You need to describe what is happening to make the reader feel like they are right there with you.

In this blog, you will learn about some amazing examples of autobiographies. So, start reading now.

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Autobiography Examples For Students

An autobiography is the story of someone's life written by them. They might write about their hardships or success. Here are some examples of autobiographies that might inspire you to write your own.

Short Autobiography Examples

This is a good example of a creative and interesting autobiography to read. It will teach you how to write your own great autobiography.

Autobiography Examples For Class 6

Autobiography essays are not easy to write. They are different from other essays because they tell the story of a person's life experiences. Every person has a lot of interesting experiences, so it can be hard to choose which ones to write about.

For your help, we compiled an example that you can use for your help and make your writing process easy.

Autobiography Examples For Grade 7

Only you know yourself best. Writing an autobiography is a great way to share your life with others. Everyone has a story to tell, and writing an autobiography is one way to leave your mark on history.

Here is an example that gives you a better idea of sharing your life story with others.

Autobiography Examples For College Students

An autobiography is a text that tells your life story. It can be in the form of a  memoir , which is more informal or more formal. Autobiographies can be written for different reasons:

  • To introduce yourself to the world.
  • To get into a program at school, for a job, volunteering, etc.

You can find more ideas for an autobiography from this example.

Note: As a college student, you might encounter confusion distinguishing between an autobiography and a statement of purpose . While both involve personal narratives, autobiographies provide a comprehensive life story, while statements of purpose focus on specific goals and qualifications for academic or professional opportunities. Understanding their distinct purposes and structures can help streamline your application processes effectively.

Autobiography Examples For High School Students

An autobiography is a self-written biography that someone writes about themselves. They might write about all of their life or just some parts. They do this to share their experiences, put them in a larger cultural or historical context, and entertain the reader.

Take a look at the below example and create a well-written one without any mistakes.

Spiritual Autobiography Examples

A spiritual autobiography is your life story. In it, you write about how God has been present in your life. This includes your journey in and out of organized religion and everything spiritual.

Writing your spiritual autobiography is a chance for you to identify specific experiences with God. You will then reflect on how those experiences have impacted you.

Below is an example for your ease.

Autobiography Examples in Literature

An autobiography is a book written by somebody about their own life. It tells the story of the author’s life, accomplishments, things they have done, etc.

The following is an example that can help you better understand how to write an autobiography.

Cultural Autobiography Examples

A cultural autobiography is more than just telling your life story. Your cultural identity reveals your beliefs and ideas about culture. It also shows how culture affects different cultural groups that make up who you are.

You may want to write a cultural autobiography better to understand yourself and your culture's role in your life. It is important to be aware of your own cultural identity in a multicultural world and be open to other cultures.

An example of a perfect cultural autobiography is below for your help.

Educational Autobiography Examples

The educational autobiography is a way to tell your life story. This type of autobiography includes what you did in school and how it affected other parts of your life.

Take a look at this example to see how to write a good educational autobiography.

Social Class Autobiography Examples

In most sociology classes, students are assigned to write a socio-autobiography. This assignment helps them understand that the subject is relevant to their daily lives. Your interactions with society have a big impact on who you become as a person.

Writing your social class autobiography is a great way to show people how you fit into society. The following example will show what kind of social autobiography looks like.

Autobiography Examples For Kids

Children are often encouraged to write an autobiography, but few people recognize the importance of this task. Everyone has something special from their childhood that they should remember and reflect on. Writing about your life is a good way to do this.

There are many different ways to write an autobiography. If you are writing about yourself, it is best to start by writing about your early life and work experience.

You can also mention your school experiences. After that, you can write about other topics that may be of interest to readers, like your hobbies or interests.

Here is an example that will help in starting an autobiography.

We all have the opportunity to write our own story, but it doesn't always come easy. If writing about yourself seems difficult, then follow the examples mentioned above.

However, if you want a professional writer to write it for you, just say ' write an essay for me ' and consult a professional at CollegeEssay.org .

We have expert writers who will help you write an autobiography, personal narrative, college essay, and any academic assignment.

AI essay writing tools are also readily available to provide you with additional assistance and support.

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creative writing autobiography examples

Writing Beginner

How To Write an Autobiography 2024 (Tips, Templates, & Guide)

Your life story has value, merit, and significance. You want to share it with the world, but maybe you don’t know how .

Here’s how to write an autobiography:

Write an autobiography by creating a list of the most important moments, people, and places in your life. Gather photos, videos, letters, and notes about these experiences. Then, use an outline, templates, sentence starters, and questions to help you write your autobiography .

In this article, you are going to learn the fastest method for writing your autobiography.

We are going to cover everything you need to know with examples and a free, downloadable, done-for-you template.

What Is an Autobiography?

Typewriter, lightbulb, and crumpled paper - How To Write an Autobiography

Table of Contents

Before you can write an autobiography, you must first know the definition.

An autobiography is the story of your life, written by you. It covers the full span of your life (at least, up until now), hitting on the most significant moments, people and events.

When you write your autobiography, you write an intimate account of your life.

What Should I Include In an Autobiography?

If you are scratching your head, baffled about what to include in your autobiography, you are not alone.

After all, a big part of how to write an autobiography is knowing what to put in and what to leave out of your life story. Do you focus on every detail?

Every person? Won’t your autobiography be too long?

A good way to think about how to write an autobiography is to use the Movie Trailer Method.

What do movie trailers include?

  • High emotional moments
  • The big events
  • The most important characters

When you plan, organize, and write your autobiography, keep the Movie Trailer Method in mind. You can even watch a bunch of free movie trailers on YouTube for examples of how to write an autobiography using the Movie Trailer Method.

When wondering what to include in your autobiography, focus on what would make the cut for a movie trailer of your life:

  • Most important people (like family, friends, mentors, coaches, etc.)
  • Significant events (like your origin story, vacations, graduations, life turning points, life lessons)
  • Emotional moments (When you were homeless, when you battled a life-threatening condition, or when you fell in love)
  • Drama or suspense (Did you make it into Harvard? Did your first surgery go well? Did your baby survive?)

Autobiography Structure Secrets

Like any compelling story, a well-structured autobiography often follows a pattern that creates a logical flow and captures readers’ attention.

Traditionally, autobiographies begin with early memories, detailing the writer’s childhood, family background, and the events or people that shaped their formative years.

From here, the narrative typically progresses chronologically, covering major life events like schooling, friendships, challenges, achievements, career milestones, and personal relationships.

It’s essential to weave these events with introspective insights.

This allows readers to understand not just the what, but also the why behind the author’s choices and experiences.

Towards the end, an effective autobiography often includes reflections on lessons learned, changes in perspective over time, and the wisdom acquired along life’s journey.

Example of the Structure:

  • Introduction: A gripping event or anecdote that gives readers a hint of what to expect. It could be a pivotal moment or challenge that defines the essence of the story.
  • Childhood and Early Memories: Recounting family dynamics, birthplace, cultural background, and memorable incidents from early years.
  • Adolescence and Discovering Identity: Experiences during teenage years, challenges faced, friendships formed, and personal evolutions.
  • Pursuits and Passions: Describing education, early career choices, or any particular hobby or skill that played a significant role in the author’s life.
  • Major Life Events and Challenges: Chronicles of marriage, parenthood, career shifts, or any significant setbacks and how they were overcome.
  • Achievements and Milestones: Celebrating major accomplishments and recounting the journey to achieving them.
  • Reflections and Wisdom: Sharing life lessons, changes in beliefs or values over time, and offering insights gained from lived experiences.
  • Conclusion: Summarizing the journey, contemplating on the present state, and sharing hopes or aspirations for the future.

How To Write an Autobiography Quickly: Strategies & Templates

Want the quickest way to organize and write your autobiography in record time? You can literally write your autobiography in 7 days or less with this method.

The secret is to use done-for-you templates.

I have personally designed and collected a series of templates to take you from a blank page to a fully complete Autobiography. I call this the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint.

And it’s completely free to download right from this article. 🙂

In the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint, you get:

  • The Autobiography Questions Template
  • The Autobiography Brainstorm Templates
  • The Autobiography Outline Template

Here is an image of it so that you know exactly what you get when you download it:

Autobiography Blueprint

How To Write an Autobiography: Step-by-Step

When you sit down to write an autobiography, it’s helpful to have a step-by-step blueprint to follow.

You already have the done-for-you templates that you can use to organize and write an autobiography faster than ever before. Now here’s a complete step-by-step guide on how to maximize your template.

  • Brainstorm Ideas
  • Order your sections (from medium to high interest)
  • Order the ideas in each section (from medium to high interest)
  • Write three questions to answer in each section
  • Choose a starter sentence
  • Complete a title template
  • Write each section of your by completing the starter sentence and answering all three questions

Brainstorm Your Autobiography

The first step in writing your autobiography is to brainstorm.

Give yourself time and space to write down the most significant people, events, lessons, and experiences in your life. The templates in the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint provide sections for you to write down your brainstormed ideas.

How to Brainstorm Your Autobiography

This will help you organize your ideas into what will become the major sections of your book.

These will be:

  • Y our most significant events and experiences.
  • The people who impacted you the most.
  • The challenges you have overcome.
  • Your achievements and successes.
  • The lessons you have learned.

The “other” sections on the second page of the Brainstorm template is for creating your own sections or to give you more space for the sections I provided in case you run out of space.

As I brainstorm, I find asking myself specific questions really activates my imagination.

So I have compiled a list of compelling questions to help you get ideas down on paper or on your screen.

How to Write an Autobiography: Top 10 Questions

Order Your Sections (From Medium to High Interest)

The next step is to order your main sections.

The main sections are the five (or more) sections from your Brainstorm templates (Significant events, significant people, life lessons, challenges, successes, other, etc). This order will become the outline and chapters for your book.

How do you decide what comes first, second or third?

I recommend placing the sections in order of interest. Ask yourself, “What’s the most fascinating part of my life?”

If it’s a person, then write the name of that section (Significant People) on the last line in the How to Write an Autobiography Outline Template. If it’s an experience, place the name of that section (Significant Events) on the last line.

For example, if you met the Pope, you might want to end with that nugget from your life. If you spent three weeks lost at sea and survived on a desert island by spearfishing, that is your ending point.

Then complete the Outline by placing the remaining sections in order of interest. You can work your way backward from high interest to medium interest.

If you are wondering why I say “medium to high interest” instead of “low to high interest” it is because there should be no “low interest” parts of your autobiography.

But wait, what if you met the Pope AND spent three weeks lost at sea? How do you choose which one comes first or last?

First of all, I want to read this book! Second, when in doubt, default to chronological order. Whatever event happened first, start there.

Here is an example of how it might look:

Autobiography Example

Order The Ideas in Each Section (From Medium To High Interest)

Now, organize the ideas inside of each section. Again, order the ideas from medium to high interest).

Within your “Significant People” section, decide who you want to talk about first, second, third, etc. You can organize by chronological order (who you met first) but I recommend building to the most interesting or most significant person.

This creates a more compelling read.

Keep in mind that the most significant person might not be the most well-known, most famous, or most popular. The most significant person might be your family member, friend, partner, or child.

It comes down to who shaped your life the most.

So, if your “significant people list” includes your dad, a famous social media influencer, and Mike Tyson, your dad might come last because he had the biggest significance in your life.

Write Three Questions to Answer in Each Section

Ok, you’ve done the heavy lifting already. You have the major sections organized and outlined.

Next on your autobiography to-do list is to choose and write down three questions you are going to answer in each section. You can write your questions down in the provided “boxes” for each section on the template outline (or on another piece of paper.

This is easier than it might seem.

Simply choose one of the sample autobiography questions below or create your own:

  • Why did I choose this person/event?
  • What does this person/event mean to me?
  • How did I meet this person?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • What is the most interesting part?
  • How did I feel about this person or event?
  • How do I feel now?
  • Why does this person or event matters to me?
  • How did this person or event change my life?
  • What is the most challenging part?
  • How did I fail?
  • How did I succeed?
  • What did I learn?

Questions are the perfect way to write quickly and clearly. I LOVE writing to questions. It’s how I write these blog posts and articles.

Choose a Starter Sentence

Sometimes the hardest part of any project is knowing how to start.

Even though we know we can always go back and edit our beginnings, so many of us become paralyzed with indecision at the starting gate.

That’s why I provided sample starter sentences in your How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint.

Here are the story starters:

  • I began writing this book when…
  • Of all the experiences in my life, this one was the most…
  • I’ve been a…
  • My name is…
  • Growing up in…
  • It wasn’t even a…
  • It all started when…
  • I first…
  • I was born…

Keep in mind that you do not need to begin your book with one of these story starters. I provide them simply to get you going.

The key is to not get bogged down in this, or any, part of writing your autobiography. Get organized and then get writing.

Complete a Title Template

At the top of the How to Write an Autobiography Outline is a place for you to write your book title.

Some authors struggle forever with a title. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is getting stuck. What’s not ok is if coming up with your title prevents you from finishing your book.

So, I provided a few title templates to help juice your creativity.

Just like the story starters, you do not need to use these title templates, but you certainly can. All you need to do is fill in the title templates below and then write your favorite one (for now) at the top of your outline. Presto! You have your working title.

You can always go back and change it later.

How to Write an Autobiography Title templates:

  • [Your Name]: [Phrase or Tag Line]
  • The [Your Last Name] Files
  • Born [Activity]: A [Career]’s Life
  • The Perfect [Noun]: The Remarkable Life of [Your Name]

Examples using the Templates:

  • Christopher Kokoski: Blog Until You Drop
  • The Kokoski Files
  • Born Writing: A Blogger’s Life
  • The Perfect Freelancer: The Remarkable Life of Christopher Kokoski

Write Your Autobiography

You have your outline. You have your title, templates, and sentence starters. All that is left to do is write your autobiography.

However, you can use tools like Jasper AI and a few other cool tricks to craft the most riveting book possible.

This is the easy way to remarkable writing.

Check out this short video that goes over the basics of how to write an autobiography:

How To Write an Autobiography (All the Best Tips)

Now that you are poised and ready to dash out your first draft, keep the following pro tips in mind:

  • Be vulnerable. The best autobiographies share flaws, faults, foibles, and faux pas. Let readers in on the real you.
  • Skip the boring parts. There is no need to detail every meal, car ride, or a gripping trip to the grocery store. Unless you ran into the Russian Mafia near the vegetables or the grocery store is perched on the side of a mountain above the jungles of Brazil.
  • Keep your autobiography character-driven . This is the story of YOU!
  • Be kind to others (or don’t). When writing about others in your story, keep in mind that there may be fallout or backlash from your book.
  • Consider a theme: Many autobiographies are organized by theme. A perfect example is Becoming . Each section of the book includes “becoming” in the title. Themes connect and elevate each part of the autobiography.
  • Write your story in vignettes (or scenes). Each vignette is a mini-story with a beginning, middle, and end. Each vignette builds. Each vignette should be described in rich sensory language that shows the reader the experience instead of telling the reader about the experience. Each vignette is immersive, immediate, and intimate.
  • Include snippets of dialogue. Use quotation marks just like in fiction. Show the dialogue in brief back-and-forth tennis matches of conversation. Remember to leave the boring parts out!
  • Choose a consistent tone. Some autobiographies are funny like Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. Others are serious such as Open by Andre Agassi. Your story (like most stories) will likely include a mix of emotions but choose an overall tone and stick with it.
  • Don’t chronicle, captivate . Always think about how to make each section, each chapter, each page, each paragraph, and each sentence more compelling. You want to tell the truth, but HOW you tell the truth is up to you. Create suspense, conflict, and mystery. Let drama linger until it becomes uncomfortable. Don’t solve problems quickly or take away tension right away.

How Do I Format an Autobiography?

Most autobiographies are written in the first person (using the pronouns I, me, we, and us).

Your autobiography is written about you so write as yourself instead of pretending to be writing about someone else.

Most autobiographies are also written in chronological order, from birth right up to your current age, with all the boring parts left out. That doesn’t mean you can’t play around with the timeline.

Sometimes it’s more interesting to start at a high moment, backtrack to the beginning and show how you got to that high moment.

Whatever format you choose, be intentional, and make the choice based on making the most compelling experience possible for your readers.

How Long Should an Autobiography Be?

There are no rules to how long an autobiography should be but a rough guideline is to aim for between 200 and 400 pages.

This will keep your book in line with what most readers expect for books in general, and will help get your book traditionally published or help with marketing your self-published book.

How To Write a Short Autobiography

You write a short autobiography the same way that you write a long autobiography.

You simply leave more out of the story.

You cut everything down to the bones. Or you choose a slice of your life as you do in a memoir. This often means limiting the people in your book, reducing the events and experiences, and shrinking your story to a few pivotal moments in your life.

How To Start an Autobiography

The truth is that you can start your autobiography in any number of ways.

Here are four common ways to begin an autobiography.

  • Start at the beginning (of your life, career or relationship, etc.)
  • Start at a high moment of drama or interest.
  • Start at the end of the story and work backward
  • Start with why you wrote the book.

Good Autobiography Titles

If you are still stuck on titling your autobiography, consider going to Amazon to browse published works. You can even just Google “autobiographies.”

When you read the titles of 10, 20, or 50 other autobiographies, you will start to see patterns or get ideas for your own titles. (HINT: the title templates in the Autobiography Blueprint were reverse-engineered from popular published books.

Also, check out the titles of the full autobiography examples below that I have included right here in this article.

Types of Autobiographies

There are several different kinds of autobiographies.

Each one requires a similar but slightly nuanced approach to write effectively. The lessons in this article will serve as a great starting point.

Autobiography Types:

  • Autobiography for School
  • Autobiography Novel
  • Autobiography for a Job
  • Short Autobiography
  • Autobiography for Kids

Therefore, there is actually not just one way to write an autobiography.

Memoir vs. Autobiography: Are They The Same?

It’s common to feel confused about a memoir and an autobiography. I used to think they were the same thing.

But, nope, they’re not.

They are pretty similar, which is the reason for all the confusion. A memoir is the story of one part of your life. An autobiography is the story of your full life (up until now).

What Is the Difference Between an Autobiography and a Biography?

An autobiography is when you write about your own life. A biography, on the other hand, is when you write the story of someone else’s life.

So, if I write a book about the life of the President, that’s a biography.

If the President writes a story about his or her own life, that’s an autobiography.

What Not To Include In an Autobiography

Autobiographies are meant to be a snapshot of our lives that we can share with others, but there are some things that are best left out.

Here are three things you should avoid including in your autobiography:

1) Anything That Readers Will Skip

Your life may not be filled with non-stop excitement, but that doesn’t mean you need to include every mundane detail in your autobiography.

Stick to the highlights and leave out the low points.

2) Character Attacks on Others

It’s okay to discuss conflicts you’ve had with others, but don’t use your autobiography as a platform to attack someone’s character.

Keep it civil and focus on your own experiences and how they’ve affected you.

3) Skipping Highlights

Just because something embarrassing or painful happened to you doesn’t mean you should gloss over it in your autobiography.

These are the moments that shape us and make us who we are today, so don’t skip past them just because they’re uncomfortable.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your autobiography is interesting, honest, and engaging.

How To Write an Autobiography: Autobiography Examples

I have always found examples to be extremely instructive. Especially complete examples of finished products. In this case, books.

Below you will find examples of published autobiographies for adults and for kids. These examples will guide you, motivate you and inspire you to complete your own life story.

They are listed here as examples, not as endorsements, although I think they are all very good.

The point is that you don’t have to agree with anything written in the books to learn from them.

Autobiography Examples for Adults

  • A Promised Land (Autobiography of Barack Obama)
  • If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t) (Betty White)
  • It’s a Long Story: My Life (Willie Nelson)
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography (Rob Lowe)
  • Becoming (Michelle Obama)

Autobiography Examples for Kids

  • This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (NOT Disability) (Aaron Philips)
  • Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid (Mikaila Ulmer)

Final Thoughts: How To Write An Autobiography

Thank you for reading my article on How to Write an Autobiography.

Now that you know all of the secrets to write your book, you may want to get it published, market it, and continue to upskill yourself as an author.

In that case, read these posts next:

  • Can Anyone Write A Book And Get It Published?
  • The Best Writing Books For Beginners 2022 (My 10 Favorites)
  • Why Do Writers Hate Adverbs? (The Final Answer)
  • How To Write a Manifesto: 20 Ultimate Game-Changing Tips

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How To Write An Autobiography

Autobiography Examples

Barbara P

11+ Autobiography Examples: A Detailed Guide

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Published on: Sep 22, 2019

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Last updated on: Nov 25, 2023

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Have you ever thought about telling your life story? 

An autobiography is like a special book about you – your experiences, ups, downs, and everything in between. 

But when it comes to autobiography writing , putting it all into words, it can feel a bit tricky, especially for students like you.

In this blog, we're here to help you understand what an autobiography is all about and make it easier for you to write one with the help of examples. 

We'll dive into practical examples and autobiography templates to help you see how it's done. 

So, let's dive in!

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  • 1. Memoir Vs Autobiography Example 
  • 2. Autobiography Outline Examples
  • 3. How to Write an Autobiography - Examples
  • 4. Autobiography Examples for Students
  • 5. Personal Autobiography Examples
  • 6. Famous Autobiography Examples

Memoir Vs Autobiography Example 

Memoirs and autobiographies both delve into personal experiences, but they have their own styles and purposes. 

Let’s jump into example to see what is the actual difference between memoir and autobiography:

Memoir Vs Autobiography Example PDf

Autobiography Outline Examples

Any academic or professional writing needs to follow a proper format to organize the information. And an outline is the best way to follow the proper format. It helps you organize your information and structure your data into a proper format.

Here are some autobiography outline examples to help you learn the basics of the autobiography format .

Autobiography Outline for College - Example

Autobiography Sample Outline

How to Write an Autobiography - Examples

As we have mentioned earlier, there are as many stories as there are people on earth. Each of the stories is different from the others; no two of them could be the same. 

How you present your ideas really matters. That's why using the right strategies and the correct format is essential to make your writing creative.

It is important to know the difference between autobiography and biography . These examples will help you learn how to start an autobiography that leaves a good impression on the reader’s mind.

Autobiography Sample PDF

Writing an Autobiography - Example

Autobiography Examples for Students

An autobiography is your life story. If your teacher tells you to write one, they just want to hear about your life. Even if you think your story isn't super exciting, following the structure can make it work better.

These autobiography examples for students will help you understand how you can properly format the autobiography.

Autobiography Examples for Kids 

School is a time of discovery, and what better way to explore your own journey than through the lens of an autobiography? Here are some great autobiography examples crafted specifically for kids.

Autobiography Examples Ks2

Autobiography Examples For Grade 7

Autobiography Examples For Class 6

Short Autobiography Example for Students

Here is a sample of a short autobiography for you. Give it a good read and learn how to write an excellent short autobiography.

Short Autobiography for Students - Example

High School Autobiography Example

Check out this sample and learn to write an incredible  autobiography for  high school students.

High School Autobiography - Example

Spiritual Autobiography Example for College Students

Spiritual autobiographies give a glimpse into the spiritual person's life. Have a look at the following sample spiritual autobiography and give it a good read to learn more.

Spiritual Autobiography for College Students - Example

Cultural Autobiography Examples 

Here is a sample of a cultural autobiography that contains detailed information on culture. Have a look at the sample to know more about it.

Cultural Autobiography Examples

Funny Autobiography Examples 

Autobiographies are thought to be boring and mundane, but that is not the case. You can make an interesting story, as well as funny. Learn to write a funny autobiography by this example.

Funny Autobiography Examples

Educational Autobiography Example

Here is a sample educational autobiography that will help you formulate an effective and inspiring autobiography.

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Social Class Autobiography Example

Writing a social class or sociology assignment could be a bit difficult. This sample will help you work on yours easily.

Rambling Autobiography Examples

Rambling autobiographies are like a casual conversation with a friend, where stories unfold in their own unique way. 

Let’s jump into some fascinating examples about this type of autobiography:

Personal Autobiography Examples

Personal autobiography or personal narrative essay provides a complete picture of the author’s life story. The following personal autobiography demonstrates how to write a personal narrative autobiography.

Personal Narrative Autobiography - Example

Autobiography Examples for Students About Yourself

Famous Autobiography Examples

Autobiographical essays are usually about famous people or historical figures. Just as a renowned autobiography of Benjamin Franklin tells us about his life, his unfinished records, his accomplishments, etc.

Below are some examples of famous autobiographies for your better understanding:

Famous Literacy Autobiography Example

Famous Autobiography - Sample

All in all, we have explored different examples, like understanding what makes memoirs different from autobiographies and exploring rambling ones. These examples are like guides to help you tell your own story and maybe inspire others on your writing journey. 

So, go ahead, give it a try, and have fun telling your unique tale!

And if you need assistance you can always content MyPerfectWords.com , the best paper writing service !

Our online essay writer can do autobiography essay writing for you! All you have to do is share your story, place the order!

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Barbara P

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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Basic Types of Autobiography Writing With Examples

Types of Autobiography

Simple Autobiography Format for Students to Follow

Autobiography Format

Autobiography vs. Biography vs. Memoirs: The Differences & Similarities

Autobiography vs Biography

Autobiography vs. Memoir - Differences & Similarities

Autobiography vs. Memoir

How to Write a Memoir: Everything You Need to Know

How to Write a Memoir

How to Write an Autobiography: 11 Simple Steps

  • February 21, 2024

Table of Contents:

What is an autobiography, how to write an autobiography.

  • 1- Outline Your Life's Timeline

2- Identify the Theme

3- gather memories, 4- be honest and reflective, 5- include influential people, 6- describe settings vividly, 7- express emotions, 8- edit and revise, 9- seek feedback, 10- incorporate visuals, 11- finalize your manuscript, 6 essential elements of autobiography, 4 examples of autobiography.

  • Example 1: "Long Walk to Freedom" by Nelson Mandela
  • Example 2: "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank
  • Example 3: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
  • Example 4: "Dreams from My Father" by Barack Obama



Autobiography writing is when someone pens down their life story. It’s like creating a personal diary, but for everyone to read. In autobiography writing, the autobiography writers share their unique experiences and intimate memories. This type of writing allows the reader to see the author’s life and mind directly. It’s different from a biography, where another person tells your story. In an autobiography, it’s the person sharing their journey. It offers a special chance to step into their shoes and see the world from their eyes.

Find Your Focus: Beginning to write an autobiography starts with finding what to focus on. Reflect on the parts of your life that mean the most to you. Maybe it’s about your childhood days, the peaks of your career, or how you’ve grown personally. This focus acts like a compass for your writing. It makes sure your autobiography centers on the stories you find most vital. Think of it as choosing the key chapters of your life’s book you want everyone to read.

1- Outline Your Life’s Timeline

Creating a timeline is essential in writing an autobiography, akin to mapping your life’s journey. Begin from the outset, noting significant events in sequence, from birth to school days, influential people, career milestones, and more. This structured timeline serves as a guide, streamlining your narrative for clarity and coherence. It facilitates readers’ understanding, allowing them to accompany you through your life’s story. Whether documenting personal memories or delving into presidential biographies , a well-crafted timeline illuminates the path from your past to present.

Figuring out the theme is a crucial part of writing an autobiography. It’s like finding the heart of your story. What’s the big message or the most important lesson from your life? Maybe it’s about how you overcame tough times, the value of your family, or chasing your dreams. This theme adds more depth to your autobiography. It ties your various experiences together into a story that makes sense. A well-chosen theme can transform a simple list of life events into a powerful narrative that truly speaks to others.

As you embark on the journey of writing your autobiography, gathering memories is crucial. Start by collecting old photos, letters, and keepsakes reminiscent of different times. These items, akin to keys, unlock memories, aiding in recalling forgotten details and emotions. They weave together to narrate your life’s story, infusing authenticity and depth into your writing. Incorporating such pieces from your past can serve as a profound source of inspiration, alongside exploring memorable memoir examples .

Being honest and reflective is crucial when you write an autobiography. It’s not just about listing what happened in your life. You also need to think deeply about what these experiences mean to you. Being honest makes your story believable and trustworthy. At the same time, looking back thoughtfully lets you share the important lessons and understanding you’ve gained. This mix of honesty and reflection turns your autobiography into more than just a timeline of events. It becomes a deep dive into the essence of your life’s journey.

In every life story, including when you write an autobiography, key figures leave a lasting impact. It’s important to acknowledge these individuals in your writing. They could be family members, friends, mentors, or even challengers who have shaped who you are. Discuss how these people have influenced your choices, beliefs, and personal growth. Including them in your autobiography adds depth, showing how our lives are often interwoven with others, shaping us thoughtfully.

Bringing the places of your life to life is a crucial aspect when you write an autobiography. Vividly describe the settings where significant events of your life unfolded. It could be the house where you grew up, a school that was a big part of your life, or a city that left an indelible impression on you. Use your words to paint these places so that readers can see them in their minds. This level of detail makes your story more engaging and helps readers feel more connected to your journey.

As you get on the journey to write an autobiography, being open about your emotions is key. Share your feelings during the big moments of your life, whether they were filled with joyous challenges or were transformational in some way. Your emotional honesty brings another dimension to your story, making it more gripping and easier for readers to relate to. Let your readers experience your happiness, struggles, excitement, or fears. Emotions are a universal language, and sharing yours adds richness and depth to your story.

Once you’ve written your story, the next vital step in your journey to write an autobiography is editing and revising. Take a critical look at your work, focusing on clarity and impact. Simplify complex sentences, making your language easy to grasp. Ensure your storytelling is consistent and flows smoothly. Editing isn’t just about fixing grammar; it’s about fine-tuning your narrative and capturing the essence of your experiences in the most compelling way possible.

As you walk the path of writing an autobiography, seeking feedback is incredibly beneficial. Share your drafts with people you trust, those who grasp the essence of your story. This could be family members, close friends, or a writing group. Pay attention to their constructive criticism. Their insights may provide fresh perspectives or reveal areas needing improvement. Remember that feedback is invaluable for refining your story, making it more engaging and authentic.

An excellent way to enrich your autobiography is by adding visuals. Include photographs, documents, or any relevant imagery that can add a personal touch to your narrative. These visuals serve as tangible evidence of your experiences, helping to illustrate your story. They allow readers to visually connect with the people and places you describe, making your account more relatable and vivid. When you write an autobiography, remember that pictures can convey volumes.

The final step in your journey to write an autobiography is to finalize your manuscript. Review your entire story, ensuring it flows well from start to finish. Pay special attention to your conclusion – it should be strong and reflective, leaving a lasting impression on your readers. It’s your chance to summarize your life’s lessons and experiences, offering wisdom or insights from your journey. A well-crafted conclusion ties your story together beautifully.

By following these steps, one can effectively make an autobiography that is both engaging and meaningful. Along with these tips, you can also look towards biography writing services if you need help throughout your writing journey.

Honesty: When you set out to write an autobiography, being honest is key. Share your true story, the good and the bad. This honesty helps readers believe and connect with your journey, making it more real and relatable.

Detail is vital when you write an autobiography. Describe your experiences and events vividly. This brings your story to life, making it colorful and engaging for those who read it.

A clear order of events is important when you write an autobiography. It helps readers follow your story easily, understanding how your past shaped who you are today. A logical flow makes your story clearer and easy to follow.

Your autobiography should have a central theme. This is the main message or lesson from your life. A strong theme ties your experiences together, making your story more meaningful and impactful for your readers.

Sharing your feelings is essential when you write an autobiography. It lets readers connect with you on a deeper level. Your emotions make your story more powerful and touching, drawing readers into your world.

Reflecting on your experiences is a key part of an autobiography. It shows how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned. This reflection adds depth to your story, offering valuable insights and lessons to your readers.

“The Story of My Experiments with Truth” by Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhi’s autobiography isn’t just a history. It’s a journey into his beliefs and actions. Gandhi shares insights into his life’s pivotal moments, starting with his childhood. He talks about his philosophy of nonviolence and truth. This book gives us a unique look into how Gandhi thought and lived.

Example 1: “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela

This is the story of Nelson Mandela, a man who changed the world. Mandela grew up in a small village. He later became a symbol of peace, spending 27 years in prison. His fight against apartheid in South Africa shows us the power of resilience and hope.

Example 2: “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Anne Frank’s diary is a heart-rending account of World War II. She wrote it while hiding from the Nazis. Her words bring to life her fears and dreams. This diary is more than history. It’s a powerful reminder of courage in the face of danger.

Example 3: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s story is about overcoming. She faced racism and personal hardships in her early years. Her book tells how she found her voice against all odds. Angelou’s rich and expressive writing makes her experiences come alive. It’s an inspiring tale of empowerment.

Example 4: “Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama

Before becoming president, Barack Obama wrote about his life. He talks about his diverse background and finding his identity. The book covers his early work and initial steps into politics. It offers a glimpse into the experiences that shaped his leadership. Obama’s story is about growth and understanding.

The journey to write an autobiography is not just about recording events; it’s about sharing the essence of your life story with the world. It’s a process of self-examination, discovery, and creation. Remember, your story is unique; only you can tell it with the depth and authenticity it deserves. Whether you write a biography or an autobiography, the key is to stay true to your experiences and the lessons they have taught you.

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How to Write a Creative Autobiography

A dictum of journalism is that there are no boring stories, only boring writers. With that in mind, everyone's life contains episodes and anecdotes that could add to a creative autobiography. The important ingredients of a compelling life story are authenticity, voice, emotion and flow.

Author Your Autobiography

Read. To write creatively you must immerse yourself in creative writing. There are tens of thousands of autobiographies and biographies that can offer examples of the best and worst. Read the famous and the newly famous. Contemporary authors who have penned memoirs that captivate include J.R. Moehringer ("The Tender Bar"), Kelly Corrigan ("The Middle Place") and Jeanette Walls ("The Glass Castle"). Theirs are not celebrity tell-alls, but rather the tales of American life--its trials and triumphs.

Begin in the middle. Instead of starting your story from your birth or before, grab your readers with a highlight they can identify with. Capture their attention from the start and they will want to go back to your beginnings with you as you weave your full life story.

Be honest. Scandals abound of authors telling their "true" life stories only to be discovered as frauds--James Frey ("A Million Little Pieces") Herman Rosenblat ("Angel at the Fence")--when journalists and readers press for details. Whether your end goal is family distribution or publication, the truth resonates.

Be yourself. In line with honesty, it is important that your autobiography be told in your voice. Not only does this lend the work authenticity, but it can also endear you to your readers.

Don't shy away from unbelievable stories that are nonetheless true. Support for the mantra "you can't make this stuff up," can be found in newspapers every day as people put themselves in crazy predicaments. The difference between bland and bold may well be in that tale of your crazy uncle really doing whatever it was that seems the substance of fiction.

Interview the people in your life. While it may seem an unnecessary time killer, gathering recollections of events in which you were present is an important way of triggering memories, filling in blanks, and enhancing your overall story.

Use humor if you have a knack for it. Simple, observational humor can have your readers chuckling as they turn the pages or nodding in recognition at perhaps identifiable human foibles.

Add details. Regardless of the story, the details are what render it believable and pull your readers into a scene. If you describe a day at the beach and your reader unconsciously finds himself smelling the sea air, you've succeeded in having him connect to you and your story.

  • Regardless of your creativity, your work needs to be structurally sound. If you cannot do it yourself, have your work professionally edited upon completion.

Linda Emma is a long-standing writer and editor. She is also a digital marketing professional and published author with more than 20 years experience in media and business. She works as a content manager and professional writing tutor at a private New England college. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.

creative writing autobiography examples

How to Write an Autobiography Fast

creative writing autobiography examples

Writing your autobiography is like exploring a treasure trove of memories that make up your life. But starting can feel overwhelming. Where do you begin? How do you turn your experiences into a compelling story? Don't worry – this guide is here to help. Whether you're a seasoned writer or a total beginner, we'll break down the process of how to write your autobiography into easy-to-follow steps. Together, we'll uncover the magic of storytelling and turn your life into a captivating reflective essay that's uniquely yours. Get ready to start this adventure of self-discovery and creativity!

What Is an Autobiography

The autobiography definition explains it is a written account of a person's life penned by the individual who has lived those experiences. It is a personal narrative that chronicles significant events, reflections, and emotions throughout various stages of the author's life. Unlike a biography, which is typically written by someone else, an autobiography provides a firsthand perspective, allowing the author to share their thoughts, memories, and insights. It is a cogent medium for self-expression, enabling students to convey the essence of their unique journey, impart lessons learned, and leave a lasting record of their lives for themselves and others to explore.

Autobiography vs. Biography: What’s the Difference

The key distinction between an autobiography and a biography lies in the authorship and perspective. An autobiography is a personal account of one's own life written by the subject themselves. It offers an intimate insight into the author's experiences, emotions, and reflections. For instance, in "The Diary of a Young Girl," Anne Frank provides a poignant autobiographical account of her life hiding from the Nazis during World War II. On the other hand, a biography is a narrative of someone's life written by another person. It often involves extensive research and interviews to present a comprehensive and objective view. A notable example is "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson, a biography offering an in-depth portrayal of the Apple co-founder, drawing on interviews with Jobs himself and those who knew him. While both genres illuminate lives, the crucial difference lies in the source of the narrative – whether it emanates directly from the subject or is crafted by an external observer.

A biography vs autobiography offers distinct perspectives on individuals' lives, shaping narratives through either personal reflections or external observations. Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is a powerful autobiography chronicling her tumultuous childhood and journey toward self-discovery. In contrast, a notable biography like "Leonardo da Vinci" by Walter Isaacson delves into the life of the Renaissance polymath, painting a vivid picture through meticulous research and analysis. Autobiographies often provide a deeply personal lens, as seen in "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls, where Walls recounts her unconventional upbringing. In contrast, biographies such as "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand meticulously document the extraordinary life of Louis Zamperini, offering a comprehensive view shaped by the author's investigative work. These examples underscore the unique storytelling approaches each genre employs, either from the firsthand perspective of the subject or the external perspective of an author.

Autobiography Example

Ready to explore autobiography examples? We've got a cool section coming up where we'll check out two awesome examples. Autobiographies are like personal tours into someone's life, and we'll be looking at the stories of Alex Sterling and Trevor Noah. They've poured their experiences onto the pages, and we're going to see what we can learn from their journeys. Get ready to be inspired and maybe even think about telling your own story down the line. Let's dive in!

Example 1: “Wanderer's Odyssey: The Uncharted Life of Alex Sterling”

This autobiography recounts the life of a character born in a bustling city who, driven by a thirst for adventure, leaves behind urban life to explore the open road. The narrative explores the protagonist's experiences of hitchhiking, forming connections, and finding self-discovery in the midst of the unpredictable journey. The story emphasizes the lessons learned from the road, the challenges faced, and the ultimate embrace of authenticity. The epilogue reflects on the character's life as a well-lived odyssey, highlighting themes of resilience, connection, and the pursuit of one's true identity.

Example 2: “Echoes of Eternity: The Memoirs of Amelia Reed”

This autobiography follows a character from a countryside village who harbors expansive dreams of adventure. The narrative unfolds as the protagonist sets out to pursue these dreams, facing trials and triumphs that shape their character and lead to self-discovery. The story emphasizes the transformative power of embracing the unknown, with the epilogue reflecting on a life well-lived, highlighting the legacy of fulfilled dreams and the enduring impact on future generations. In addition to examples, we have samples of narrative essay topics that might be useful for you as well.

Tell your story with EssayPro . Our skilled writers can help you craft an autobiography that truly reflects your journey. Share your unique experiences and life lessons in a way that resonates with readers.

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Autobiography Elements Explained

Writing an autobiography provides a personal account of one's experiences, achievements, challenges, and personal growth. While each autobiography is unique, certain common elements are often found in this genre:


  • Autobiographies typically begin with an introduction where the author sets the stage for their life story.
  • It may include background information such as birthplace, family, and early experiences.

Birth and Early Years

  • Authors often include details about their birth, childhood, and family background.
  • Early influences, relationships, and experiences that shaped the individual may be highlighted.

Significant Life Events

  • Autobiographies focus on key events and milestones that have had a significant impact on the author's life.
  • This could include achievements, failures, relationships, and other impactful experiences.

Challenges and Obstacles

  • Autobiographies explore the challenges and obstacles the author faced throughout their life.
  • This can include personal struggles, professional setbacks, or other difficulties.

Personal Growth and Development

  • Authors reflect on their personal growth and development over the years.
  • This may involve self-discovery, learning from experiences, and evolving perspectives.

Achievements and Milestones

  • Autobiographies highlight the author's achievements, whether personal, professional, or both.
  • Major milestones and successes are often detailed to showcase the individual's journey.

Influential Relationships

  • Autobiographies frequently discuss relationships with family, friends, mentors, and significant others.
  • The impact of these relationships on the author's life is explored.

Reflection and Insight

  • Authors often reflect on their lives, offering insights into their beliefs, values, and lessons learned.
  • This section may also include the author's perspective on the world and society.

Themes and Motifs

  • Autobiographies may explore recurring themes or motifs that run throughout the individual's life.
  • Common themes include resilience, determination, love, loss, and personal identity.
  • Autobiographies typically conclude with a summary or reflection on the author's life.
  • The author may share their current perspective and future aspirations.

Writing Style

  • The writing style can vary, ranging from a formal tone to a more conversational and reflective approach.
  • Authors may use literary devices and storytelling techniques to engage readers.

Remember that autobiographies are highly personal, and the structure and emphasis on different elements can vary widely depending on the author's preferences and purpose for writing.

Autobiographical Essay Structure

Autobiographies typically follow a chronological order, beginning with the author's early life and progressing towards the present or a significant moment. The introduction sets the stage, introducing the author and offering insight into the main themes. As you can see in an autobiography example, the narrative then unfolds, exploring the author's significant life events, challenges faced, and personal growth. Achievements and milestones are highlighted, and the impact of influential relationships is examined. Throughout, recurring themes and motifs add depth to the narrative. In the reflection and insight section, the author shares personal lessons learned and beliefs. The conclusion summarizes the autobiography, reflecting on the author's life and future aspirations.

autobiographical essay structure

Learning how to start an autobiography involves captivating the reader's attention while providing context. Authors often employ engaging anecdotes, vivid descriptions, or thought-provoking statements related to the overarching theme of their lives. The goal is to draw readers in from the beginning and establish a connection between the author and the audience. In the introduction, authors can introduce themselves to the reader. This can be done by sharing a captivating snapshot of their life or posing a question that intrigues the audience. The autobiography introduction sets the tone for the entire narrative, providing a glimpse into the themes and events that will be explored in the autobiography.

The autobiography conclusion offers the culmination of the author's life story. Here, authors often summarize the key points and experiences shared throughout the narrative. It is a moment of reflection, where the author can offer insights into the significance of their journey and the lessons learned along the way. The conclusion may also touch on the author's current perspective, providing a sense of closure to the narrative while leaving room for future aspirations and growth.

Literary Forms of Autobiography

Autobiographies, while generally a non-fiction genre, can take on various literary forms and styles. Here are some literary forms commonly found in autobiographical works:

Literary Forms of Autobiography

Traditional Autobiography

  • The straightforward narrative of an individual's life, which is usually written by the person themselves. It follows a chronological order, covering significant events and experiences.
  • Similar to an autobiography but often focusing on specific themes, periods, or aspects of the author's life rather than a comprehensive account. Memoirs often delve into personal reflections and emotions.

Diary or Journal Form

  • Some autobiographies adopt the form of a diary or journal, presenting the author's life through dated entries. This format provides a more immediate and personal perspective.

Epistolary Autobiography

  • Written in the form of letters, an epistolary autobiography may consist of the author addressing themselves or others. This style adds an intimate and conversational tone to the narrative.

Graphic Novel or Comic Memoir

  • Autobiographical stories are presented in a graphic novel or comic format. Visual elements complement the written narrative, providing a unique and engaging way to convey personal experiences.

Experimental or Nonlinear Autobiography

  • Some authors choose to play with the chronological order, presenting their life story non-linearly. This experimental approach can create a more artistic and challenging reading experience.

Biographical Fiction

  • While not entirely autobiographical, some authors write fictionalized versions of their own lives. It allows for creative exploration and artistic liberties while drawing inspiration from real experiences.

Travelogue Autobiography

  • Autobiographies that take on the form of a travelogue often focus on the author's journeys, both physical and metaphorical. The narrative is shaped by the places visited and the impact of these experiences on personal growth.

Essayistic Autobiography

  • Autobiographies that incorporate elements of essays, exploring themes, ideas, and reflections on the author's life. This form allows for a more contemplative and philosophical approach.

Collaborative Autobiography

  • Co-written autobiographies involve collaboration between the autobiographical subject and a professional writer. It is common when the subject may not be a writer but has a compelling story to share.

These literary forms highlight the versatility of autobiographical writing, showcasing how authors can creatively shape their life stories to engage readers in various ways. Are you working on other academic assignments? Use our term paper writing services to put your finger on any pending task at hand quickly and for a reasonable price.

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How to Write an Autobiography in 5 Steps

Writing an autobiography can be a rewarding and reflective process. Here's a simplified guide in 5 steps to help you get started:

Step 1: Reflection and Brainstorming

Begin by reflecting on your life, considering important events, challenges, and moments of growth. Make a mental inventory of key experiences and people who have influenced you.

Step 2: Establish a Focus

Choose a central theme or focus for your autobiography. This could be a specific period of your life, a significant achievement, or a recurring theme that ties your experiences together. Having a clear focus will guide your writing.

Step 3: Create a Chronological Outline

Develop a rough chronological outline of your life story, starting from your early years and progressing through significant events to the present or another crucial point. Identify key moments and experiences to include in each section.

Step 4: Write with Detail and Emotion

An important aspect of how to write an autobiography for college is appealing to emotion. As you delve into each body paragraph, share your story with vivid details. Use descriptive language to bring your experiences to life for the reader. Infuse your writing with emotion, allowing readers to connect with the depth of your personal journey.

Step 5: Conclude Reflectively

In the concluding section, summarize the key aspects of your life story. Reflect on the significance of your journey, the lessons you've learned, and how you've grown. Provide insights into your current perspective and aspirations for the future, bringing your autobiography to a thoughtful conclusion.

Writing Techniques to Use in an Autobiography

When you write an autobiography, the process involves employing various techniques to make the narrative engaging, evocative, and compelling. Here are some tips for writing autobiography commonly used in autobiographies:

Descriptive Language

  • Use vivid and descriptive language to paint a detailed picture of events, people, and settings. Engage the reader's senses to create a more immersive experience.
  • Incorporate dialogue to bring conversations to life. Direct quotes can provide authenticity and convey the personalities of the people involved.

Show, Don't Tell

  • Instead of merely stating facts, show the emotions and experiences through actions, reactions, and sensory details. 

Flashbacks and Foreshadowing

  • Employ flashbacks to delve into past events and foreshadowing to create anticipation about future developments. 

Metaphors and Similes

  • Use metaphors and similes to enhance descriptions and convey complex emotions. Comparisons can make abstract concepts more relatable.
  • Integrate symbols and motifs that hold personal significance. This adds depth to the narrative and can be a thematic thread throughout the autobiography.

Humor and Wit

  • Infuse your writing with humor and wit when appropriate. 
  • Introduce suspense by strategically withholding information or revealing key details at crucial moments. 

First-Person Perspective

  • Utilize the first-person point of view to offer a direct and personal connection between the author and the reader. 

Dramatic Irony

  • Introduce dramatic irony by revealing information to the reader that the author may not have known at the time.


  • Create parallel structures within the narrative, drawing connections between different periods, events, or themes in your life. 

Experimenting with different styles can make your story more engaging and memorable for readers. If you haven’t used these techniques in your paper, simply say, ‘ edit my essay ,’ and our experts will imbue stylistic and creative devices in your document to increase its scholarly value.

Benefits of Writing an Autobiography

Working on an autobiography can be incredibly beneficial on a personal level. When you take the time to reflect on your life and put it into words, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself. It's like a journey of self-discovery where you uncover patterns, values, and beliefs that have shaped who you are. This process not only promotes self-awareness but can also help you grow and bounce back from tough times. Writing about challenging moments can be a therapeutic release, allowing you to confront and make sense of your experiences, leading to emotional healing.

On a broader scale, sharing your life story through an autobiography has its impact. It becomes a piece of history, offering insights into the times you've lived through, the culture around you, and societal changes. Your personal narrative connects you with others, creating empathy and understanding. Autobiographies often inspire people by showing that it's possible to overcome challenges, find purpose, and navigate the ups and downs of life. By sharing your story, you become a part of the larger human experience, contributing to a rich tapestry of diverse stories that help us better understand the shared journey of being human. Order an essay or any other type of task to streamline your educational progress is only a few clicks.

Best Piece of Advice for Making Your Autobiography Spot-on

The most valuable advice on how to write an autobiography is to infuse authenticity into every word. Be genuine, raw, and honest about your experiences, emotions, and growth. Readers connect deeply with authenticity, and it's what makes your story uniquely yours. Don't shy away from expressing vulnerability, as it adds a human touch and makes your narrative relatable. Share the highs and lows, the triumphs and struggles, with sincerity, and let your true self shine through. This honesty not only enhances the impact of your autobiography but also contributes to a more profound connection between you and your readers, creating an authentic and memorable narrative. Here are additional tips for bringing your autobiography assignment up to par:

  • Essential Details. Focus on key moments that significantly contribute to your story, avoiding unnecessary details.
  • Thematic Cohesion. Introduce and explore recurring themes to add depth and coherence to your narrative.
  • Authentic Expression. Embrace your unique voice, personality, and storytelling style to create an authentic connection with readers.
  • Dialogue and Monologue. Use genuine dialogue and inner monologue to provide insights into your thoughts and emotions during pivotal moments.
  • Symbolic Elements. Incorporate symbolic imagery or metaphors to convey deeper meanings and emotions.
  • Strategic Foreshadowing. Use foreshadowing purposefully, providing subtle hints that contribute meaningfully to the overall narrative.
  • Reflective Closure. Conclude your autobiography with a reflective summary that offers insights into the broader significance of your journey.

Our essay writers know many more tips regarding all possible types of academic tasks. If you ever find yourself in writer’s block, not knowing how to tackle any particular assignment, let us know!

Final Words

If you want to understand how to write a good autobiography, think of it as painting a vivid picture of your life for others to see. It's about being real, digging deep into your memories, and choosing the moments that really matter. Let your personality shine through in your writing – be yourself because that's what makes your story unique. Weave in themes that tie everything together, and use storytelling techniques like dialogue and symbolism to make your narrative come alive. And as you reach the end, leave your readers with some food for thought – a reflection on the bigger lessons learned from your journey. If you ever need assistance with this or any other college assignment, use our research paper services without hesitation.

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The Expert’s Guide on How to Write an Autobiography Like a Pro

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Writing an autobiography can both be fun and a headache for students. Fun for those who know how to go about this art and a headache for those who are working on it for the first time. Plus, writing a great biography is a whole different thing!

This expert guide is for both of these types of students to learn writing a great biography. It means that we will be looking into things from the very basics. Slowly we’ll move into the examples to ensure you bag all the goodies of this academic activity. Pretty sure this blog post will serve as a stepping stone for you to write an autobiography like an expert working with a  professional paper writing service  provider. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What Challenges a Student Faces While Writing an Autobiography?

Students often face these obstacles while writing an autobiography:

Selecting relevant events:  Figuring out what to include and what to leave out of your life story can be tough because there’s a wide array of experiences.

Maintaining objectivity:  Staying neutral and accurately reporting on events, especially when the subject matter is intense or delicate.

Structuring the narrative:  Deciding on to arrange a life story can be difficult, like deciding what would be the most interesting way to keep readers engaged.

Balancing depth and brevity:  Making sure the story is interesting enough to keep the reader’s attention without making it too long.

Reflecting on personal growth:  It can be hard for some students to figure out how to recognize their own growth and understand how certain experiences have shaped who they are.

Tips and Tricks on How to Write an Autobiography

Writing an autobiography is a deeply personal and rewarding endeavor that allows you to recount your life’s journey. Here are some tips for writing an autobiography from  our writers  to help you get started with this academic activity.

Reflect and Plan

Reflect:  Take some time to think about your life and all the important moments that have happened. Think about any big changes, difficult times, accomplishments, the people you have relationships with, and any moments that have had a big impact.

Reflecting on your life involves introspection and contemplation of various aspects that have shaped your experiences and identity. Here’s a breakdown of what each element might entail:

  • Significant Events
  • Turning Points
  • Relationships

Themes:  Think about what big takeaways have come out of your life so far. What has been the defining moments that have formed who you are? What values, beliefs, and characteristics have been the most impactful?

Outline Your Story (Autobiography Format)

Chronological or Thematic: Think about whether you want to tell your story in chronological order or if you’d rather group it by topics (like family, work, or hobbies).

Deciding between a chronological narrative and organizing by themes involves choosing the structure that best suits the story you want to tell in your autobiography. Here’s an elaboration on both approaches:

Chronological Narrative

Sequential Storytelling: This structure follows a timeline, starting from your earliest memories and progressing chronologically through your life.

A chronological narrative in an autobiography essentially mirrors the passage of time in your life. Here’s a more detailed exploration:

Linear Progression

Starting Point: It begins with your earliest memories or significant starting point, like your birthplace or a crucial childhood event.

Sequential Order: Each chapter or section moves forward in time, capturing the progression of your life events in the order they occurred.

Early Years

Childhood Memories: You might start by narrating your formative years, family dynamics, early interests, and influential experiences.

Educational Journey: Describe schooling, friendships, hobbies, and pivotal moments that shaped your adolescence.

Adolescence to Adulthood

Transition Phases: Highlight transitional phases like moving to a new place, major life decisions, career choices, or relationships.

Career Development: Discuss your career path, internships, jobs, promotions, and how they contributed to your growth.

Milestones and Challenges

Major Events: Include significant life milestones such as marriage, parenthood, significant achievements, or personal triumphs.

Challenges Faced: Address hardships, obstacles, failures, or crises that shaped your resilience and personal development.

Reflective Closure

Present-Day Reflection:  Culminate by bringing the narrative to the present, reflecting on how past experiences shaped your present self.

Lessons Learned:  Offer insights, lessons, and takeaways from the chronological journey, emphasizing personal growth.

Logical Flow:  The linear structure creates a cohesive and understandable flow for readers, mapping your life’s journey in a clear sequence.

Developmental Arc:  It showcases your growth, experiences, and evolution over time, providing a comprehensive view of your life.

Detail Management:  Balancing depth without overwhelming readers with too much detail can be challenging.

Transition Management:  Seamlessly transitioning between different life stages might require careful narrative planning.

Clear Progression:  It provides a clear and straightforward account of your life, from childhood to the present.

Natural Flow:  Readers can follow the natural progression of events, which can create a cohesive and easy-to-understand narrative.


Detail Overload:  It might lead to including every detail, potentially making the story lengthy or overwhelming.

Skipping Around:  Some events might need flashbacks or explanations, disrupting the linear flow.

Thematic Organization

Focused Themes:  This structure categorizes your life events and stories into specific themes or topics, regardless of their chronological order.


Focused Exploration:  Allows in-depth exploration of specific themes like family, career, passions, or personal growth.

Flexibility:  You can organize chapters around topics that are most meaningful or impactful to your story.

Possible Fragmentation:  It may involve jumping back and forth in time, potentially disrupting the sense of a continuous narrative.

Transition Challenges:  Smooth transitions between themes might require careful planning to maintain coherence.

Key Chapters:  Break your life into chapters or sections. For instance, childhood, education, career, relationships, personal growth, etc.

Start Writing

Engaging Opening:  Grab attention with a compelling introduction. Share a vivid memory or an impactful moment from your life.

Authentic Voice:  Write in your own voice. Be honest, sincere, and authentic. Readers connect with genuine stories.

Dialogue and Detail:  Use dialogue, anecdotes, and sensory details to bring your story to life. Describe scenes, emotions, and thoughts.

Include Important Elements

Family Background:  Discuss your family history, upbringing, and early influences.

Life Events:  Detail significant life events – pivotal moments, achievements, setbacks, and how they shaped you.

Challenges and Growth:  Describe challenges faced and how you overcame them. Reflect on personal growth and lessons learned.

Relationships:  Discuss meaningful relationships and their impact on your life.

Career or Passion:  Share insights into your career, passions, hobbies, and what drives you.

Be Reflective and Honest

Emotions:  Don’t shy away from expressing your emotions. Your vulnerability can resonate deeply with readers.

Honesty:  Be honest, even if it means acknowledging mistakes or regrets. Show your growth and learning from these experiences.

Editing and Refining

First Draft:  Write freely without worrying too much about perfection.

Revise and Edit:  Review your work critically. Edit for clarity, coherence, and flow. Consider seeking feedback from trusted individuals.

Refinement:  Polish your language, structure, and storytelling.

Closing and Reflection

Conclusion:  Wrap up your autobiography with a reflective conclusion. Summarize key points and reflect on your journey.

Impact:  Consider the message or impact you want to leave on readers.

Optional Additions

Photographs or Memorabilia:  Consider including photos, documents, or mementos that complement your story.

Epilogue:  Add an epilogue if you wish to reflect on life after the events covered in your autobiography.

Seeking Help

Professional Assistance:  Consider hiring a professional editor or an  essay writing service provider  to help refine your work.

Understanding these Steps with Examples

let’s read examples of how someone might approach writing their autobiography following these steps:

Reflecting and Planning

Reflection: Emily, now in her 60s, reminisces on a life of varied experiences, including growing up in a small town, pursuing a career in education, and her adventures traveling the world.

Themes: She realizes her life has been about embracing change, fostering learning, and exploring diverse cultures.

Outlining Your Story

Chapters: Emily decides to structure her autobiography into sections: Early Years and Family, Academic Pursuits, Teaching Career, Travel Adventures, and Personal Growth.

Engaging Opening: Emily begins with a poignant memory of her first day at school, capturing the innocence and curiosity that shaped her thirst for knowledge.

Authentic Voice: Writing in a reflective yet conversational style, she shares her anecdotes and life lessons candidly.

Including Important Elements

Family Background: She delves into her family dynamics, emphasizing the influence of her parents’ encouragement in fostering her love for learning.

Life Events: Emily shares pivotal moments, like her decision to pursue education and her journey as a teacher, narrating both triumphs and challenges.

Challenges and Growth: She reflects on personal struggles, including times of self-doubt and how these instances spurred her to seek personal growth and resilience.

Relationships: She discusses the impact of friendships and mentors on her life’s direction.

Being Reflective and Honest

Emily dives into her emotions, describing the exhilaration of accomplishment and the weight of failure with equal honesty, showcasing her vulnerability.

First Draft: Emily writes freely, allowing memories and experiences to flow onto paper.

Revise and Edit: She revisits her draft, refining the narrative for coherence, adding descriptive details, and polishing language for clarity.

Conclusion: Emily wraps up with reflections on her journey, expressing gratitude for the lessons learned and the richness of experiences.

Impact: She hopes her story will inspire others to embrace change, cherish learning, and explore the world around them.

Photographs or Memorabilia: Emily considers including photos from her travels and teaching career to complement her narrative.

Emily might reach out to a trusted friend or professional editor for feedback and guidance.

Reflection: James, a man in his 40s, looks back on a life filled with entrepreneurial pursuits, global travels, and personal growth stemming from his multicultural upbringing.

Themes: His life has been about innovation, embracing diversity, and the pursuit of self-discovery.

Chapters: James organizes his autobiography into sections: Early Years and Multicultural Roots, Entrepreneurial Ventures, Travel Adventures, Personal Challenges, and Discoveries.

Engaging Opening: James begins with a vivid memory of a childhood trip abroad, highlighting the exposure to diverse cultures that shaped his worldview.

Authentic Voice: Writing in a dynamic and spirited tone, he captures his passion for entrepreneurship and cultural exploration.

Family Background: James delves into his upbringing in a multicultural household, emphasizing how it influenced his perspective and fueled his entrepreneurial spirit.

Life Events: He shares stories of launching his first business, the challenges faced, and the triumphs that followed, shaping his identity as an entrepreneur.

Challenges and Growth: James narrates personal setbacks, like business failures and moments of self-doubt, revealing how these experiences fostered resilience and personal growth.

Relationships: He discusses influential friendships and mentors who played pivotal roles in shaping his career and personal development.

James bares his emotions, describing the exhilaration of success and the humbling experiences of failure with authenticity.

First Draft: James writes freely, letting memories and experiences flow onto the pages.

Revise and Edit: He revisits his draft, refining the narrative for coherence, adding vivid details, and ensuring his voice shines through.

Conclusion: James wraps up by reflecting on the lessons learned, expressing gratitude for the journey, and discussing plans for the future.

Impact: He hopes his story will inspire others to pursue their passions, embrace diversity, and persist in the face of challenges.

Photographs or Memorabilia: James considers including images from his business ventures and travels to complement his storytelling.

James might seek feedback from peers or a professional editor to refine his narrative further.

Step 10: 

He contemplates sharing his autobiography as a motivational tool for aspiring entrepreneurs or leaving it as a legacy for his family.

Reflection: Emma, a woman in her early 50s, looks back on a life filled with corporate success but felt a void in her creative spirit.

Themes: Her journey revolves around rediscovering her passion for art and creativity amid the demands of a corporate career.

Chapters: Emma organizes her autobiography into sections: Early Ambitions, Corporate Career, Creative Spark Ignited, Challenges Faced, and Artistic Renaissance.

Engaging Opening: Emma begins with a poignant memory of her childhood, reminiscing about her love for painting and how it slowly took a backseat in pursuit of a corporate career.

Authentic Voice: Writing with a blend of nostalgia and determination, she expresses her yearning to reconnect with her artistic side.

Family Background: Emma shares how her family supported her creative pursuits early in life and how those experiences shaped her aspirations.

Life Events: She narrates the story of climbing the corporate ladder, the sacrifices made, and the disconnect she felt from her artistic self.

Challenges and Growth: Emma discusses the challenges faced when trying to rekindle her artistic passion amidst a busy career and how these hurdles became stepping stones to personal growth.

Relationships: She reflects on how friends and mentors encouraged her to pursue her passion and offered support during her transition.

Emma candidly expresses her emotions, describing the fulfillment she found in her corporate success but also the emptiness from neglecting her artistic side.

First Draft: Emma pours her emotions onto the pages, capturing her journey from career-driven to creatively inspired.

Revise and Edit: She revisits her draft, refining the narrative to ensure it resonates with readers, capturing the emotional essence of her journey.

Conclusion: Emma concludes by reflecting on the newfound joy in her creative pursuits, expressing gratitude for the journey, and discussing the importance of balancing passion with career.

Impact: She aims to inspire others to seek and nurture their passions, even amidst demanding professional lives.

Artwork or Creative Works: Emma considers including samples of her artwork or creative projects to supplement her narrative.

Emma seeks feedback from fellow artists or a writing coach to ensure her narrative effectively conveys the emotional and transformative aspects of her journey.

Tips on how to Start an Autobiography

Starting an autobiography is an exciting but crucial step in setting the tone and capturing your readers’ attention. Here’s a detailed guide on how to how to start an autobiography :

Identify Your Focus

Reflection: Think about the most important thing in your life that you want to talk about. It could be a big event that happened, a moment that changed your life, something that made you feel something or a core belief that shapes your story.

Audience Consideration: Think about who you’re talking to and what would really grab their attention.

Choose an Engaging Opening

Anecdote: Think of a meaningful experience from your life that has a special connection to the story you’re trying to tell. It could be a funny moment, a heartbreaking event, a moment of triumph, or something else that you feel carries some emotional significance.

Vivid Description: Create an image for the reader that is so detailed that they can almost feel, smell, and taste the scene. Use words to create a vivid visual of the surroundings.

Emotional Connection: Connect with your readers on an emotional level. Share the emotions, ideas, or difficulty you felt in that moment.

Find Your Voice and Tone :

Authenticity: Express yourself in your own unique style. Share your thoughts and feelings honestly. Make sure your story is heard and felt deeply.

Tone: Think about the atmosphere you’re trying to create. Whether it’s contemplative, funny, solemn, or a combination of those things, it all comes down to the vibe you’re aiming for.

Set the Scene

Time and Place: Provide context by mentioning the time frame and setting. Describe the era, location, and any relevant circumstances that influenced the event or period you’re starting with.

Character Introduction: Introduce yourself or the central characters involved, establishing their role and significance in your story.

Capture the Essence

Theme Introduction: Offer a hint or foreshadowing of the overarching themes or lessons your autobiography will explore.

Purpose: Convey the purpose behind your decision to share this particular moment or phase from your life.

Draft and Redraft

Initial Draft: Don’t worry too much about perfection initially. Focus on getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper.

Revision: Review and revise your opening multiple times. Polish the language, refine the details, and ensure the emotional impact is conveyed effectively.

Seek Feedback

Trusted Input: Share your opening with trusted friends, family, or writing groups. Collect feedback to understand how your opening resonates with others.

Align with the Overall Autobiography

Consistency: Ensure that your opening sets the stage for the rest of your autobiography. It should provide a glimpse of what readers can expect in terms of style, themes, and narrative direction.

Embrace Experimentation

Variety: Experiment with different approaches if needed. You might start with a powerful quote, a rhetorical question, or even a thought-provoking statement.

Be Patient and Persistent

Revision Process: Writing a captivating opening might take several iterations. Be patient and persistent in refining it until it truly reflects the essence of your story.

Still confused?

Now that you know that writing an autobiography takes more than good writing skills. It needs you to put great details of the key events of your life among other things. Hopefully, this blog post was able to help you find an answer for how to write an autobiography. Incase, you still have doubts about tackling this task, don’t hesitate to consult our academic writers.

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How to Write an Autobiography (Fully Explained)

By: Author Paul Jenkins

Posted on Published: November 20, 2021  - Last updated: July 31, 2023

Categories Writing , Storytelling

Sooner or later, many of us think we’d like to write an autobiography. Maybe we should even write our memoirs, but we’ll talk more about that in a minute.

The point is this: We’ve all these memories and associations, relationships, sometimes sharp, sometimes soft, but we have them in our mind, and we feel like we want to put them on paper.

We want to tell someone the story we experienced, and sometimes we don’t even understand why we want to tell that particular story, but we have a strong feeling that we want to do so. In this article, we’ll look at exactly how you can approach your autobiography writing.

Autobiography or Memoir

An autobiography is a whole thing – a life, usually told chronologically as a series of significant events. Sometimes with the help of a ghostwriter. You should only ever have to write one autobiography!

But to qualify for it, you must have either :

a) lived a life worth living

b) been infamous or famous

Maybe both!

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write a story about your life. Quite the contrary.

But the memoir form may be better suited for you.

Memoirs as a Slice of Life

A memoir is a much more artistic endeavor than an autobiography or biography. They’re less limited to dry facts and more concerned with the meaning of life – whether by examining a specific period or looking at a period of life through a thematic lens.

It’s about a story within one’s life, not the whole life story. A slice-of-life experience. An excellent memoir is much closer to creative nonfiction than an autobiography.

The great thing about memoirs is that you can use them for almost any purpose and make them whatever you want.

A memoir usually isn’t as long as an autobiography and is written from a different perspective.

Writing an autobiography is about your life from your perspective. That’s not always the case with memoirs. Here, the author focuses on

a) a particular period of life,

b) a particular kind of life, or

c) a particular event.

You can tell about a day in your life that was particularly memorable, which is another type of memoir.

You don’t have to tell the story chronologically, but if it helps put things in order, you can do that too.

Memoirs can also be more subjective than an autobiography. A memoir is usually the story of your life as you see it.

Themes in a Memoir or Autobiography

You can focus on crucial moments and look at a period or a topic you want to write about.

Topics can be anything from your relationship with your parents to overcoming fear. Family, religion, work, relationships, health, hobbies – whatever you prefer – are fair game for the memoirist’s pen.

Themes give meaning to life. That’s why they’re so important in an autobiography or memoir.

There are other forms you should keep in mind:

  • In a biography , someone else writes about someone.
  • An autobiographical essay is required of prospective college or college applicants, in which they focus on experiences and accomplishments that add weight to their application. It’s an opportunity for a student to demonstrate relevant qualifications and qualities for entry and the ability to construct a well-argued piece of writing that is looser in style than straight academic writing. You can think of it as a personal essay.

The Moving Parts

If you’re thinking about writing your autobiography, you should first be aware of the key elements that will ensure your autobiography stands out and engages readers.

Many factors play a role in this, and we’ll discuss them one by one.

Universal Message

At its core, autobiographical writing is a search for meaning and identity.

A good autobiography isn’t just about you and your experiences. Somewhere in your autobiography, there’s always a universal message that manifests itself in the story you tell.

In this sense, an autobiography isn’t simply a list of experiences you string together, although you can use a chronological structure. But that’s far from the whole story.

A great autobiography has all the elements of a fantastic novel or movie. In other words, it’s to engage the reader emotionally and keep them enthralled.

Otherwise, there’s no motivation to keep reading.

In filmmaking, a central theme is sometimes called a “controlling idea” – akin to a thesis statement, it’s the fulcrum around which the narrative revolves.

No one is interested in a string of events. The events must have meaning, and the music and rhythm of life should permeate your autobiography for it to jump off the page and truly engage the reader.

There’s nothing like a universal message told in the form of a story.

A Strong Story

An excellent autobiography is a story told with strength and nuance. That’s why it matters to be clear about the story you want to tell and the key events that the story embraces.

Granted, this story may not be apparent when writing your autobiography begins. The story may not be clear to you until late in the writing and editing.

You may not even understand the story you’re telling until you revise. That’s why it’s so important to be flexible in outlining, structuring, writing, and revising. In other words, in the overall organization of your autobiography, which we’ll discuss in more detail in this article.

We’ll look at specific methods to help you structure your autobiography and assemble the necessary pieces.

And we’ll show you how to combine those pieces to create an excellent autobiography.

But before we go any further, let’s look at key elements that make a good autobiography.

When discussing a particular moment in your life story, you should be concerned with the spirit of the times – the so-called Zeitgeist.

For example, if you’re talking about the 1960s, you want the flavor and feel of that time to be reflected on the page.

It can be allusions to the music of the time. It can be allusions to the cars or the way of shopping that existed back then. The things that were happening on the street.

They can have to do with the attitudes of the people around you that were important at the time and how they acted and thought.

This creates a picture in the reader’s eye of what was happening around you then. That essential things were happening to you, or you were doing important things.

There’s something mysterious about a good autobiography.

Not everything in life is unambiguous! Life is often very ambiguous, and readers appreciate honesty and humility. By its nature, personal experience is subjective.

Readers don’t want to read someone arrogant and know everything. The fact is that not everything in your own life is clear to yourself, let alone to others around you!

Therefore, it can be excellent to acknowledge this and either mention it directly in your writing or have moments in the story where you allow the mystery to exist because it does.

This sense of mystery lets the reader’s imagination run wild. It allows the reader to understand that life comprises a series of veils. In most cases, the reader will find himself relating parts of your story to his life story. He’ll feel addressed, and that’s what draws him in.

Life isn’t just about clear challenges and overcoming them. As compelling as such “hero stories” may be. There are profound mysteries in life that we all ponder occasionally and keep popping up.

That’s why I think this sense of mystery is very important.

Revelations and Story Beats

In addition to secrets, you should also have moments of revelation in your autobiography.

Moments when something suddenly becomes clear, or someone realizes something. Life lessons that change the trajectory of your life. Or the nature and meaning of a relationship become apparent, which drives you to a decision or action.

In that sense, the events in your autobiography are less about the external events and more about the internal events where you decide what to do at certain stages. Or you come to a judgment or conclusion about something that you’ll probably change later in your life.

The point is that these moments of change, the so-called swing points in your life – the “beats” in movie language – are very important because they mark turning points in the story of your life.

The Plot of Your Life

It’s constructive to think of your life as a movie plot. We’ll discuss this technique later in this article.

So your autobiography isn’t just a collection of the best and worst moments of your life, even if you desperately want the polarity of good and bad to make your story stand out.

Juxtaposition is a very important element. You want things to contrast because that helps build emotion. It helps build tension and drama in the story.

Tension is essential for reader engagement. You can think of it like a rubber band that you slowly twist. It gets tighter and tighter. The trick is to keep stretching it open, building it up more and more, and then relaxing it again. Tighten it up and then relax it again. Over and over again.

In other words, play with the tension in your life story, your autobiography.

Context Shifts

Another critical element in your autobiography is context shifts.

Sometimes these are changes of place. So you move, go to a different place, or arrive at a different place.

Sometimes they’re contextual shifts in terms of relationships with other people.

Sometimes it’s contextual shifts regarding your life purpose and how you define what’s important to you and what you want to accomplish.

But it’s helpful to be aware of these contextual shifts in your life and think about these seams as you write your autobiography.

Now let’s look at the key steps to writing your autobiography.

A Very Personal Journey

Run away if anyone tells you that there’s some standard template for writing an autobiography or memoir! Quick.

Writing and stories aren’t about squeezing experiences and memories into some template.

The author’s connection to the material is the most crucial thing in writing a good, meaningful work.

Writing is about how you see the world, understand your experiences, and want to share them with readers.

Writing is a personal journey that can be very different for everyone.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a memoir about how you worked your way up in your profession and discovered leadership and management skills or if you’re writing a memoir about your relationship with your mother.

Either is perfectly fine.

Tell the stories that burn inside you. Write about what it means to be alive, awake, aware, and a wonderful person. Make up a story that’s as personal as you see fit.

Memoirs help you do that. How you choose what to include and what not to include, what to focus on, and what to ignore is up to you.

A Thought for the Reader

Picture the scene. You have a few minutes in the bookstore, browsing the titles scattered on the table of featured books – or the digital equivalent online.

A cover catches your eye. Something intrigues you so much that you pick up the book.

What do you do?

You probably read the blurb on the back cover and then the first page or two. Often that’s enough to make you buy the book or quickly put it back on the pile.

Something in the blurb and the first few pages must appeal to you. Otherwise, you won’t get involved, and the book has left your universe forever!

So when thinking about, constructing, and writing your memoir or autobiography, be clear about your story’s appeal to other people, your future readers!

This doesn’t mean you should be cocky about your writing. On the contrary, an honest path through your story is almost always better. But it means you develop a sense of your reader’s attention!

Otherwise, you’re just writing for yourself. That’s fine, by the way – it can be an excellent way to soothe the soul.

But if you want other people to read your stuff, you need to think carefully about what in your story will grab attention and what is worth paying attention to in each scene!

The Two Treasure Chests

We all have two treasure chests regarding memories, stories, and, thus, memoir writing.

The first is the treasure chest of memories and reflections. These are in the treasure chest of your mind, and your job is to capture them on paper or the screen and eventually work them into a story.

The second treasure chest is physical and digital mementos. Photos, CDs, letters, diaries, old notebooks, clothes, souvenirs, and more. They serve as a tremendous stimulus for remembering and writing. Although you could collect them in one place before writing, that’s probably impractical. Therefore, a good solution is to have a photo mood board with everything you’ve accumulated over the years.

An easy way to do this is to use the built-in photo app on your computer. I use a Mac, so this is Photos for me. It’s easy to collect pictures in an album and resize them to see more or less of them as needed.

Then and Now Time

One of the questions people ask when writing a memoir is how to handle tenses.

I think it’s worth considering two different time frames: the “then time” and the “now time.” This means you put yourself in the moment of the remembered events but see them as you experienced them then. This way, you can vividly represent them and discover them in your text.

It’s not so much a matter of tense as it’s of perspective and setting.

The “now time” is the time of reflection: you look back on past events with the wisdom of hindsight.

As a rule, it’s a good idea to write the main narrative in the “then time” because otherwise, you risk your memoir becoming a boring flashback instead of a compelling journey for the reader.

Connect with Your Inner Child

One particular technique worth mentioning when writing about childhood experiences is the “connect with your inner child” meditation. I first learned about it at the beautiful Plum Village retreat in France.

A guided meditation takes you back to your childhood and creates a connection you can access. Incredibly powerful in life and writing.

Imagine seeing your younger self in a scene and later adding how your older, wiser self understood what you were experiencing, even if you didn’t know it then.

This technique of shifting perspective is highly effective in both memoirs and novels.

It’s worth trying the Plum Village app for IOS. It’s completely free and offers many great meditations.

Break Out of the Prison of Linear Narrative

Where should you start with your memoir?

And how do you start writing them?

Unless you’re dealing with a tight time frame and a compelling ongoing narrative, telling your story in a non-linear way will probably help a lot.

Remember, you’re selecting events, not trying to tell everything that happened.

Therefore, not only can you select periods – which don’t have to be worked through in strict order, especially if you’re writing out your memoir thematically – but you can powerfully use nonlinear writing for your entire process.

We don’t think linearly, so why write that way?

When I sit down to write, I focus on the task: the sentences, paragraphs, and pages in front of me. I don’t worry excessively about everything having to be perfect and fit at the time of writing. Everything is in its own time! During the editing and the second draft, I start moving the blocks around so they tell a story.

Using Scrivener to Structure Nonlinear Writing

The app that best helps this nonlinear writing process is Scrivener.

I’ve used it for many years, and how it handles index cards on its “corkboard” has saved me more time than I care to remember in finding structure in writing and filmmaking.

Another excellent app I can recommend is Aeon Timeline. The latest version, 3, has a narrative mode and several other perspectives that let you get a handle on chronology, eras, intersections of characters, and more.

The Truth in Autobiography

When you write your memoir, you write a piece of truth. Your truth. There’s no such thing as objective truth, certainly not in writing. Nor, for that matter, in filmmaking.

There’s only a subjective truth – the truth as you see it. The exciting thing is that your truth becomes someone else’s truth through a magical transformation process.

Your mother’s truth becomes your truth, your neighbor’s truth becomes your truth, and your lover’s truth becomes your truth.

That’s magic.

One of the reasons I recommend writing your memoir instead of an autobiography is that you can focus on a particular story, a particular moment in your life. If you do it right, you can present it in a way that speaks to others.

You write your memoir to express your truth in a way that communicates it clearly to your reader without misleading them.

This is because they’re based on facts and what happened (as best you can remember it). This is part of a primary, unwritten contract you make with future readers when writing your memoir or autobiography.

Find a Coherent Narrative

To tell your story clearly and understandably, you must find a coherent narrative that ties together the concepts you want to convey.

The narrative won’t be perfect; it’ll need to be revised because your story isn’t an objective fact; it’s your truth.

It’s the narrative that makes your story interesting to your readers. Readers like narratives!

Hopefully, you’ll write your story so that even if the reader doesn’t know what happened to you, they’ll know what you felt and thought.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s very liberating to understand that the shape and order of your narrative will emerge during the writing process – not something you’ve to decide before you even start putting words on the page.

A Structural Approach to Autobiography and Memoir

You don’t have to pressure yourself to figure out the structure of your narrative from the start. You don’t have to summarize ideas, memories, or themes in predefined chapters.

Chapters are the surest way into the writer’s prison.

As the wonderful writer Terry Pratchett put it:

Life doesn’t happen in chapters at least, not regular ones. Nor do movies. Homer didn’t write in chapters. I can see what their purpose is in children’s books (“I’ll read to the end of the chapter, and then you must go to sleep”) but I’m blessed if I know what function they serve in books for adults. Sir Terry Pratchett

Writing programs like Scrivener allow you to collect and spit the fragments out, knowing you can later group them into a form. That’s tremendously liberating. It’s how I’ve made films, how I write long texts, and how I write articles – including this article.

I’ve no idea how this article will turn out. But it’ll appear; you can bet on that. And I know it’ll be good because it comes from the heart. And it’s immediate. Not overthought.

When you write your memoir, you can do the same thing.

I start with many different ideas and notes, photos, and videos I’ve taken. I make sure I can find them easily. If I’ve everything in one place, it’s easier for me to get it out.

You’ve to let your mind become a sieve, a filter, a funnel into which you pour your experiences so they come out transformed.

You’ll have to go through everything several times. You’ll have to go through your story several times.

First, you write down everything you remember, everything you think is essential, and everything that feels like it belongs to your story.

Second, you shape this mass of material into something coherent.

Third, you edit the material.

Dreams and Meditations

Dreams and meditations are essential in all forms of writing, even in memoirs. The trick is to capture the fragment on paper or screen as quickly as possible before it flies away.

Let me give you an example:

I remember first hearing Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band .

I was walking down the hallway at school when I was about nine years old. Suddenly I heard this incredible sound from a record player (yes, I’m that old) turned up full blast in an adjoining room. There was no one in the room, just the music. Coming from a conservative family where pop music just wasn’t played at home, I think this was the first time I got a taste of a larger culture. Out there.

I was amazed.

Use Dictation to Write Your Memoir

Sometimes when I write, I think of a scene, close my eyes, and start dictating. It’s all the more convenient when I know that one of the many transcription apps will do the hard work for me afterward.

Recently, I recalled that my brother and I were up against the local giant nettle patch when I was about twelve years old. To us, they weren’t nettles – they were an army. Hours later, we were called up for tea – and I suffered from hay fever for years afterward !

This memory also reminded me of another day when, together with local boys, we found a barn with huge black garbage cans in it. The game was to hide in the garbage cans while others threw stones and tried to hit us. Inevitably, a rock hit me right between the eyes. I’d have lost an eye if it had been just an inch further away.

Rather than lose these memories to the chaff of the day, I immediately documented them with a voice recording on my iPhone. Safe in the knowledge that I could quickly transcribe and include them in my memoir later.

Allow yourself to dream, to remember, to record, to document. Don’t be guided by the thought that these recordings must have a particular form before they must.

One way to think about your memoir is to think of it as a series of vignettes – short, impressionistic scenes that focus on a moment or give a particular insight into a character, idea, or environment.

The word’s origin is worth knowing: it comes from Old French and means “little vine.” If you think about it, it’s a very nice analogy for what excellent memoir writing can do: a series of independent yet interconnected vines that together form a whole.

I don’t see a linear path when I think about my life this way. Things have happened randomly; I’ve been in one place and then another. Or in the same place in different periods.

I don’t see my life as a coherent, meaningful narrative. It’s more like a series of vignettes between which I can see connections, but not a continuous line.

Your vignette can be part fantasy, part dream; you can change the period, time of day, weather, season, lighting, or anything else you want.

If you include dialog, make sure it’s believable; if you include your (or other) participants’ thoughts, make sure they ring true.

If you’re worried about authenticity, pick a moment you can remember clearly.

For example,

As a child, I’m sitting on the floor in the kitchen of my house. I’m nine years old. The kitchen is very bright. I’m eating a sugared roll – one of my favorite foods. I’m thinking about my friend’s birthday party tomorrow, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m also thinking about getting my housework done today. It’s light in the kitchen.

The truth, of course, is that I’m thinking about all of this at the same time.

Later, I listen to the sound of rain falling on the roof of the conservatory. It’s a sound I’ve long loved. I watch the different shades of light coming in through the window. The light casts shadows. The light is bright. I think about the things I need to do today. I’ve some homework to do. I need to do the dishes. I need to clean up.

What might hold together seemingly random moments like the above is the growing quality of reflection and the pressure that life puts on the mind.

Use Prompts

When writing memoirs and autobiographies, many prompts can be handy.

We’ve already discussed the two treasure chests above.

But many beneficial questions can get your mind going and make deep memory connections.

Here are just a few examples:

  • What was my most treasured toy? Why was it important to me?
  • What do I remember about the kitchen growing up? What smells can I still remember today? What could I glimpse out the window?
  • What did I do that I regretted? What can’t I tell another soul about?
  • Driving with the family in the car. What’s happening right now? Where are we going?
  • When was the first time I was furious? What had happened?
  • When did I feel most betrayed in my life?
  • When did I fall in love for the first time? Out of love?

As you can imagine, there are many, many more.

The point isn’t to go on an endless memory hunt but to lift the veil of the unconscious to find the topic necessary for your memoir. And more often than not, a more resounding theme emerges. A deeper meaning to your life story that you want to put on paper.

That, after all, is the real art of memoir: distilling a lifetime’s experiences into a coherent, readable, and meaningful whole.

The prompts don’t have to be about the past – they can be about the present.

They can be about your life today – your current life and your relationship to it and the people around you. Then you can discover how profound forces and influences have shaped your reality.

Your Motivations

Ultimately, you’re the only person who knows your motivations for writing your memoir. There’s no need for you to explain to the public!

What do you hope to gain by writing your memoir?

A sense of closure? A sense of accomplishment? Redemption?

A chance to share the themes of your life story with others so they can learn from your journey?

An opportunity to see your story told so you can look back and reflect on the meaning of your life and the direction your life might take in the future.

Whatever the reason, the result should be more significant than a simple retelling of your life.

Perhaps it’s about creating a legacy, leaving something that will stay with you beyond your time, years, and life into the future.

When you write your memoir, you’re also writing your legacy. Or at least part of it.

That’s why it’s worth pausing for a moment.

Beware of the natural human instinct to right the wrongs done to us in the past. Seeking revenge will lead you down a dark path. Once it’s published, it’s published. And it’s hard to crawl back.

My advice would be to make your memoir a positive impulse.

We all make mistakes; why not reflect on them with awareness, acceptance, and understanding?

Awareness will lead us to change our pattern of behavior, acceptance will lead us to forgiveness, and understanding will show us how to forgive others.

Remember, forgive the person, but not the crime.

Writing your memoir can be a part of the healing process if you let it.

Scenes That Resonate

Actors know there are “scene objectives” in scenes – things the character wants and is trying to achieve.

This isn’t always true, but it’s often the case that the character either achieves their goal or doesn’t. There will be a clear resolution to the scene.

You can also look at your memoir in this way.

The goal of a particular scene is to get the character from one point in the story to the next in a way that makes sense to the reader.

How do you do that? Through the concept of scenes that “get there.” In a way, it’s similar to a joke that “lands” with its punchline.

These “landings” are ways to get from one scene to the next.

They’re places of transition where action and reflection mix, and you can move from one scene to the next. This is where you place the dissonance leading to your character’s next destination.

Remember that these transitions will become more apparent and more evident as you write and move into revision. You don’t have to have a set structure for your memoir. However, you need a series of vivid scenes, fast or slow sections, that deepen your narrative.

The Movie of Your Life

There’s a classic and well-understood dramatic arc that underlies almost all movies. I’m not suggesting that you apply it to how you write your autobiography or memoir, but it can benefit you as you reflect on the ebb and flow of your life.

We go through a series of “walls” in our lives. Ones that we break through after we find our way or ones that we somehow get around.

Overcoming the significant obstacles of life usually requires inner change and realization. When we overcome life’s walls, we learn an important lesson that we take into the next phase.

I found it very helpful to plot these walls on a timeline of my life. On the X-axis was my age, and on the Y-axis was the amount of hardship endured. That corresponds to the level of drama. This was a precious exercise because it helped me step back from the story of my life and look at it from the outside.

The way a reader might.

It helped me recognize the moments that involved real struggle, emotion, and conflict. In this way, it served as a map for my memoir.

So I took the significant events in my life – death, illness, divorce, early trouble spots, etc. – and drew them on the line where they took place, what age I was, and what was happening in my life at the time.

An interesting thing happened.

I thought I’d written about significant events before but never went into enough detail to immerse the reader in the pain, emotion, and drama.

Also, I hadn’t allowed myself to take ownership and responsibility for these events.

Subconsciously, I’d distanced myself from my own life. This isn’t to say that it was all my fault. But I was guilty of being too easy on myself.

As you can probably guess, this was an essential moment in my writing process.

What’re your walls? When did you overcome them? How did you overcome them?

Maybe you’ve decided you’re going to overcome them. Or maybe you’re still waiting to overcome them.

In any case, these moments of significant change are essential to the success of your autobiography.

Commit to Yourself

Writing memoirs or autobiographies is difficult. Even if no one but you may ever get to see them!

It requires deep inner work – a journey into the soul.

And it requires a serious commitment to writing continuously over a long period.

The former means accessing your unconscious, as I described earlier in this article.

The latter is a challenge that all writers face. The simple yet not-so-simple task of sitting down in your chair and writing every day. Your writing journey.

So before you start, make some commitments to yourself.

  • Commit to writing every day.
  • Commit to writing as many words as you estimate you’ll need to finish your book.
  • Commit not to cheat on your word count.
  • Do your best because you know your best is good enough.
  • Show up to your desk and your soul.

This is the hallmark of a professional writer. Which you may not be. But why not adopt the mindset and practices of one?

One thing: don’t rush.

A memoir or autobiography shouldn’t be written under time pressure. Give your writing time to breathe and your reflections time to go deep. You’re laying the groundwork for something great.

One of the hardest things to write about is your relationship with your parents.

I lost both of my parents, one of them recently. Even as time passes, it’s hard to look deep (as a writer must) in a way that inevitably evokes pain and grief in me.

But that pain must be endured if you’re to have access to what’s probably one of the most important influences on your psyche, whether you want to admit it or not.

As a writer, artist, and human being, you must deal with them honestly. And do so with as much compassion as possible.

In other words, you must go through the same process of soul-searching and profound inner discovery as you’d with any other complicated subject.

You must apply your understanding of life and its meaning to the subject. And you must write from a position of humility and compassion.

Brainstorming for Your Autobiography

I always think of “brainstorming” more as “thought development” – a quieter and more meditative approach to writing.

You call up ideas and play with them. Try them out. To see what develops. These ideas transform as you write, re-read, and sleep on them.

Then when you come back to your writing, you’ve new things to work with. Ideas that have been developing in the background.

This is a good way to gather ideas for your memoir. It’s a way to write without writing.

  • In one sentence, invent a sentence that says something about your life.
  • In a paragraph, invent a paragraph that says something about your life.
  • In a scene, invent a scene that says something about your life.
  • Write a memory that says something about your life.

Then ask yourself: What do you’ve to say?

  • What’s the most important thing you’ve to say?
  • What’s the most dramatic thing you’ve to say?
  • What’s the most impactful moment you can convey?

I use mind mapping extensively to “develop thoughts” – the best apps I’ve found for this are iThoughts and TheBrain. The beauty of TheBrain is that it allows for contextual thinking around a subtopic – something difficult to achieve with traditional radial mind maps.

You can also use free online tools like XMind, Coggle, or paper and a pen.

You’ll find that this way of thinking brings ideas to life in ways you mightn’t be able to if you only thought linearly.

Why not just write an essay about your life, drawing from the stream of consciousness? And then see what sticks.

Related: How to Focus on Writing an Essay

Write a Letter to Yourself

Another way to write your autobiography or memoir is to imagine you’re writing a letter to yourself.

A great letter is to tell yourself the story you want to write about yourself.

Or you can take on the role of mentor to yourself:

The “you,” in this case, is your current self.

  • Write a letter to your former self.
  • What advice would you give to your former self?
  • What guidance would you give?
  • What would you do differently?
  • How would your former self respond?
  • How would your current self respond?
  • How would your future self react?
  • How would your friends and family react?
  • How would your children react?

How to Outline Your Autobiography or Memoir

The most important thing you need to know about outlining as a writer is that it’s not a process that happens before you settle down to write, and it’s written down in a kind of gospel.

Quite the opposite.

The “how” (the outline) and the “what” (the writing) are intricately intertwined and bounce off each other.

Outlining Is a Dynamic Process

If you have a good idea of what you want to write about, you can put that idea into an outline.

There are many different ways to do this. Most involve writing a few key words, phrases, sentences, or even just a few key phrases that describe the main content of your book.

A book is usually a collection of chapters (but be sure to read my comments about the chapters above).

You can outline a chapter by writing a few key words, phrases, sentences, or even just a few key sentences to describe the main content of your chapter.

You can also outline a scene. Again, you write a few key words, phrases, sentences, or even just a few key phrases to describe the main content of your scene.

An outline aims to give you a “basic structure” to work with.

The more details you’ve, the better.

How to Approach Research in Your Autobiography or Memoir

Aside from the treasure troves described above, which are more for stimulation or inspiration than research, you’ll need to track down specific facts and connections at some point in your writing.

You can do most of this research on the Internet.

There are now so many excellent online resources for writers. These include accessible radio archives, video archives, music archives, image archives, document archives, government archives, etc.

The list is endless.

Of course, you can also use your local library.

If you’re using a Mac, DevonAgent, and DevonThink can help you organize your searches and cross-referencing. DevonAgent prevents you from having to open hundreds of browser tabs, and DevonThink uses a very clever “fuzzy logic” search to find relevant things in your document collection. Although academics love both apps, they’re invaluable to me as a writer.

Another great option for research and clippings is Roam Research (or its free competitor Obsidian). Think of them as digital scrapbooks where you can drop everything useful and find valuable and relevant parts later.

Or go with a paper notebook.

Most importantly, document your research, and don’t throw anything away.

Remember that you’ll be researching at all stages of the writing process, including during editing and fact-checking. Therefore, it can be constructive to work with multiple monitors so that you can do the research queries on one while you continue writing on the other.

It’s often helpful to write a chapter or scene first and do your research later. This helps you focus your research on what you need and not disappear down a rabbit hole from which little productive writing comes out!

It’s also important to realize that researching and writing your book are closely related. They’re all part of the same journey.

When you write, you generate new ideas and write down the book that will become the finished memoir or autobiography.

This is an interactive process.

The structure of your finished book will also influence how you write it and, therefore, how you research it.

Remember that oral research also plays an important role: If people, family members, eyewitnesses, etc., are still alive and willing, their memories and perspectives can be beneficial.

Writing First Drafts

The most important thing to say about first drafts is that you do them!

That means you sit down and start writing. Even if you don’t feel like it. When you start writing, your resistance is quickly overcome, and you get into a good state of mind.

The second thing I say about first drafts is that you shouldn’t edit them as you write. That’s why I recommend not thinking too much about chapters in the first draft stage – there will be plenty of opportunities later to organize your text and divide it into chapters.

Everything that hinders your writing your first draft must be gently pushed aside. That’s why sometimes it’s better to research after you’ve written a scene.

The third thing to say about first drafts is that they should be about anything and everything.

As a writer, you need to get out of your way and not be too critical with your word choice, sentence structure, or anything else.

This is because you can only find your voice if you write your way to it. That means you’re writing many things that aren’t the finished book.

The more you write, the more you learn about yourself and your writing voice.

You may not understand the subject of your memoir or autobiography until your first draft is finished. That’s perfectly fine. It’s desirable.

Remember that your first draft should probably be just for you. Beware of letting critics in too early, even if they’re constructive.

If someone else reads your writing or sees your first drafts, that person or those people will likely impact the creative writing process, which you don’t want at this stage.

So, if you have a writing group or writing partner, wait until you’ve completed at least two first drafts before sharing the text.

Related: Why Creative Process Matters

The Path From First to Second Draft

First, put some distance between you and your first draft. If you don’t give yourself a break, you’ll have difficulty identifying the “plot holes” where you need to get your narrative going.

It’s about giving shape to the story – a story that you may not understand until after your first draft.

Your second draft isn’t about tinkering with or polishing your first draft. It’s about completely rewriting the story and moving the pieces around in the overall structure to make it work.

This is where I find Scrivener very useful. Especially the index card mode in Corkboard. It allows me to move writing blocks around, sometimes almost intuitively (since cold logic rarely works well in creative endeavors), to find the flow of a piece.

When you move the blocks, having a clear timeline is helpful – either on paper or (my choice) in a program like Aeon Timeline. This timeline helps you anchor the chronological flow of events, so you’re freer to make thematic connections knowing that you can always insert a reference to where we’re in space and time.

There’s going to be some missing. That’s fine. Write it.

Do you notice anything unclear in your narrative? Clarify it. Explain it so that someone reading the story for the first time will understand.

Sometimes it’s a matter of contextualization: a “framing scene” before the action scene. It’s incredible how sometimes putting a later scene at the beginning of the work can help make everything clear and functional.

Wield a Scalpel

The last advice I want to give you is to approach your second draft with a scalpel in hand. Cut it down, and remove any fat you discover.

Creative work often (not always) benefits from being shorter. A more compact narrative moves essential points in the story closer together and effectively tightens the connective tissue between scenes.

Cut out scenes you don’t need, scenes that are too long, and scenes that are in the background and don’t move the story forward. The goal is to create a lean, mean storytelling machine that continuously moves the story forward.

This also means cutting limp sentences, unnecessary adjectives, and anything else that makes your text wordier than it needs to be.

Examples of Great Autobiographical Writing

Maya Angelou – a series of seven autobiographies, including the work that brought her international acclaim I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Vladimir Nabokov – covering his life until he arrived in America in 1940, Speak Memory is known for how it blends fiction with fact.

Helen Keller – written with the aid of a braille typewriter The Story of My Life was dedicated to Alexander Graham Bell, a lifelong friend and avid supporter of deaf and blind research.

Mark Twain – keen to tell stories to other human beings, rather than pen a dry account of his life, Twain arranged that most of his Autobiography remain unpublished for 100 years after he died in 1910. No doubt the amount of vitriol and sharp observation, even of friends in the work, was a significant factor in this decision! Interestingly, most of his autobiography was dictated to a secretary rather than written directly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an autobiography.

An autobiography is a self-written account of an individual’s life, often detailing personal experiences, emotions, and reflections.

What should be included in an autobiography?

An autobiography should include significant events, relationships, challenges, achievements, and personal growth experiences. It should also offer insights into the author’s personality, values, and motivations.

How should I begin my autobiography?

Begin your autobiography with an engaging introduction that captures the reader’s attention. You can start with a memorable moment, an important event, or a unique aspect of your life.

What is the appropriate writing style for an autobiography?

A: The writing style for an autobiography should be honest, engaging, and descriptive. It should capture your voice and personality, connecting readers with your experiences and emotions.

How do I organize my autobiography?

Organize your autobiography in chronological order or around specific themes. You can divide it into chapters, focusing on different stages of your life or significant aspects of your personality.

How do I maintain reader interest throughout my autobiography?

To maintain reader interest, use vivid descriptions, create engaging anecdotes, and vary the pace and tone of your writing. Share unique perspectives and include moments of self-reflection to keep the reader engaged.

How do I approach sensitive or controversial topics in my autobiography?

Approach sensitive or controversial topics with honesty and sensitivity. Be aware of the potential impact on others, and consider using discretion or pseudonyms to protect privacy.

What should I focus on when writing about my childhood?

Focus on significant moments, relationships, and experiences that shaped your personality, values, and beliefs. Describe the environment, culture, and people that influenced your early years.

How do I conclude my autobiography?

Conclude your autobiography by summarizing your experiences, reflecting on the lessons learned, and sharing your hopes for the future. Consider leaving the reader with a final thought or message that encapsulates the essence of your life story.

What should I consider before publishing my autobiography?

Before publishing your autobiography, edit and revise the manuscript, fact-check for accuracy, and seek feedback from trusted readers. Consider legal and ethical implications, and explore various publishing options, including traditional publishers, self-publishing, or digital platforms.

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50 Best Autobiographies of All Time

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Hannah Yang

best autobiographies

Table of Contents

Top new autobiography books, best autobiographies of all time, most famous autobiographies, inspiring autobiographies, must-read autobiographies for athletes, top autobiographies about politics, good autobiographies about science.

Autobiographies allow us to experience other people’s lives from their own perspectives.

It can be really powerful to see the ways other people describe their own lives, especially when those people are inspiring figures or well-known celebrities.

So, what are some great autobiographies you can read?

This article will give you 50 fantastic autobiographies to add to your reading list across several categories: sports, politics, science, and more.

Let’s start our list with recent releases. Here are some great autobiographies that were published within the past five years.

new autobiogarphies

1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (2020)

In this powerful autobiography, President Barack Obama takes us on the journey that led to his presidency. He describes his time in the White House and how he handled issues like the global financial crisis and Operation Neptune’s Spear.

2. All In: An Autobiography by Billie Jean King (2021)

Billie Jean King writes about how she became the tennis legend she is today, with 39 Grand Slam titles and six years as the top-ranked female tennis player in the world. She incorporates her insights on leadership, activism, love, happiness, and more.

3. Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman (2022)

Alan Rickman, an actor famous for his roles in movies like Die Hard, Harry Potter, and many more, wrote these diaries from 1993 to 2016. These diaries are a rare peek into his inner world and all his real life stories from that time period.

4. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (2022)

Jennette McCurdy, famous for playing Sam Puckett on the Nickelodeon show iCarly, writes about her troubled relationship with her mother and how that dictated her choices until her mom passed away. She writes about her early life, her mental health, her acting career, and her struggle for independence.

5. Finding Me by Viola Davis (2022)

Famous actress Viola Davis writes about how she built her successful career and how she grounded herself in self-love and radical honesty. Her writing is intimate, personal, and moving.

creative writing autobiography examples

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Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.

6. Spare by Prince Harry (2023)

Prince Harry tells the world about the loss of his mother, his time in the British Army, his relationship with Meghan Markle, and the tensions he’s faced with his older brother, the heir. Spare is raw and often heart-wrenching.

7. Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music by Henry Threadgill (2023)

Henry Threadgill, a Pulitzer Prize-winning saxophonist, flutist, and composer, writes about his childhood in Chicago in the 1960s, his service in Vietnam, and his devotion to the art of jazz music.

Now it’s time to turn to the classics. Let’s look at some famous autobiographies that have truly stood the test of time.

best autobiographies

8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)

Maya Angelou writes about her childhood from age 3 to 16. She underwent many traumatic experiences, including racism and sexual assault, but she overcame those hardships to become one of the greatest American poets of all time. 

The Collected Autobiographies continues her story if I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings leaves you hungry for more.

9. Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez (1993)

Luis J. Rodriguez writes about growing up immersed in L.A. gang culture. In the 1990s, Always Running was one of the most frequently banned books in the U.S. because of its graphic content and daring stance on police brutality.

10. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (1964)

Famous American writer Ernest Hemingway describes his experiences in Paris in the 1920s. He writes about his first wife Hadley, his son Jack, and his early experiments with the craft of writing.

11. An Autobiography by Agatha Christie (1977)

Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, invented some of the world’s most famous detectives, such as Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. Her autobiography, published after her death, is considered by some to be one of her greatest literary masterpieces.

12. Chronicles Volume One by Bob Dylan (2004)

Award-winning musician Bob Dylan writes about his life and music in this famous autobiography. However, it’s worth mentioning that this book has been controversial for accusations of plagiarism, so read with discretion.

13. Bare by George Michael (1990)

George Michael, the lead singer of Wham!, writes about his rise to stardom. The people who knew George describe what happened behind the scenes, providing even deeper insight into what he was really like, not just as a performer but also as a person.

Many autobiographies have topped bestseller lists and even become household names. Here are some famous autobiographies that millions of people have read.

most famous autobiographies

14. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl hiding from Nazi persecution throughout the Holocaust, tells her story in this heartbreaking diary. The Diary of a Young Girl is an absolute must-read if you haven’t read it already.

15. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 by Mark Twain (2010)

Mark Twain completed his autobiography by 1910 but asked that it not be published for another 100 years. In 2010, when it was finally published, it became an instant New York Times bestseller that provides an intimate portrait of this famous author’s experiences.

16. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (1965)

Malcolm X was one of the most famous figures of the American civil rights movement. Alex Haley, an esteemed contributor to Reader’s Digest , compiled this autobiography using interviews and excerpts of Malcolm X’s writing.

17. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)

Frederick Douglass, an esteemed abolitionist and orator, chronicles his life story as a former slave in this vivid autobiographical account. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is widely considered one of the best autobiographies of all time.

18. Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010)

Artist Patti Smith writes about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who later passed away due to AIDS. The book addresses sexuality, politics, and artistic expression in a moving and evocative way.

19. Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash (1997)

Johnny Cash is a famous American musician, known for songs like “Folsom Prison Blues.” In this definitive biography, he writes about his spirituality, memories, and relationships.

20. Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca (1984)

Lee Iacocca, the son of Italian immigrants, became the president of Ford Motor Company and also helped Chrysler turn its fate around. His book tells us, in his own words, how he faced obstacles with integrity and grit.

If you’re looking for inspiration to help you change your life or make a difference in the world, reading an autobiography can be a great place to start. Many people have done incredible things that are sure to motivate you.

Here are some great examples of inspiring autobiographies.

inspiring autobiographies

21. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai (2013)

The Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai for defending the right for Pakistani girls to get an education. Now, she’s one of the most courageous and inspiring figures in the world, and her bestselling memoir describes her journey.

22. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda (1946)

Paramahansa Yogananda is the man most often credited with making yoga popular in the U.S. In Autobiography of a Yogi, he writes about his life story as well as his life lessons for readers who want to learn about yoga and finding inner peace.

23. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane (2017)

Gucci Mane, a prolific trap and hip-hop artist, started writing this memoir while incarcerated. His autobiography tells us about his childhood in Alabama, living on the streets in Atlanta, and his experience making music while overcoming obstacles.

24. Living for Change: An Autobiography by Grace Lee Boggs (1998)

Grace Lee Boggs is a human rights activist who never stopped fighting for a more just society. She writes about how she dedicated her life to her beliefs and helped make the world a fairer place.

25. The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi (1925)

Mahatma Gandhi, famous for his civil disobedience campaigns, wrote this autobiography in weekly installments, which he published in his journal Navjivan. Now, the completed book has been named one of the “100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century.”

26. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1902)

As a young child who was both blind and deaf, Helen Keller had no way to communicate with the world. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her learn how to rise above her disabilities. This compassionate memoir provides hope, courage, and faith for all of us.

27. Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock (2017)

Janet Mock is an award-winning writer, director, and producer, as well as a trans rights advocate. In this inspiring memoir, she writes about what she learned in her twenties and how she found her path.

28. Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018)

Former first lady Michelle Obama writes about her extraordinary life in this inspirational memoir. Becoming is structured in three parts: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. She writes about her childhood growing up in Chicago, her relationship with her husband Barack Obama, and their experiences serving in the White House.

It’s not easy to become a record-breaking athlete. It takes a lot of training, grit, and determination.

Many world-famous athletes have written autobiographies explaining how they reached such high levels of accomplishment in their fields. Here are a few great books by successful athletes.

autobiographies for athletes

29. Flying Free: My Victory Over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team by Cecilia Aragon (2020)

Cecilia Aragon started out as a meek, bullied young girl, then rose to become one of the most acclaimed female aerobatic pilots of all time. She writes about her experience joining the U.S. aerobatic team and her lifelong love of math.

30. Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance by Simone Biles (2016)

Simone Biles is an American gymnast who’s won seven Olympic medals. In Courage to Soar , she talks about how she overcame obstacles and trained incessantly to become the greatest in her sport.

31. Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi (2009)

Andre Agassi was raised to be a tennis champion from a young age by his exacting father. Though Agassi dominated on the court, he often resented the sport in his personal life, and Open documents his complicated feelings throughout his career.

32. The Game by Ken Dryden (1983)

The Game , which was named one of the “Top 10 Sports Books of All Time” by Sports Illustrated , tells the story of Ken Dryden, a legendary Canadian hockey player. He writes about his fellow players, his life on the road, and his worldview both on and off the ice.

33. Drive: The Story of My Life by Larry Bird (1989)

Larry Bird, who has won three NBA MVP awards, has often been viewed as one of the most private and mysterious basketball legends. In Drive, he reveals all the private feelings that he rarely shared publicly, including the story behind his failed marriage and his decision to transfer schools.

34. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (2015)

William Finnegan started surfing as a young child and went on to chase waves around the world: Australia, Asia, Africa, and more. His autobiography reads almost like an adventure story, showing how he mastered the art of surfing.

35. I Always Wanted to Be Somebody by Althea Gibson (1958)

Althea Gibson was the first African American tennis player to win at Wimbledon. Her autobiography explains how she triumphed over a difficult childhood to achieve athletic success.

36. Strongman: My Story by Eddie Hall (2017)

Eddie “The Beast” Hall is a British strongman who won the World’s Strongest Man competition. He writes about the training, nutrition, and dedication required to make it as a professional strongman.

Many politicians write autobiographies describing the ways their leadership impacted their communities.

Here are some famous political autobiographies, which might be well worth a read.  

politics autobiographies

37. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (1994)

Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, tells his life story in Long Walk to Freedom. He writes about his experiences growing up, training as a lawyer, becoming an anti-apartheid activist, and getting sentenced to life in prison.

38. Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright (2003)

Madam Secretary tells the story of Madeleine Albright, who served as U.S. Secretary of State during Bill Clinton’s presidency. She writes about how she approached peace in the Middle East, NATO’s interventions abroad, and many other prominent global affairs issues.

39. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor (2013)

Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, writes about growing up in a low-income Puerto Rican immigrant family and how her childhood shaped her rise to success. This inspiring story will remind you that anyone with enough dedication can achieve their dreams.

40. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (1909)

Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography in the 1770s–1790s, but it wasn’t published until 1909. Now you can read about the life of one of America’s Founding Fathers and his moral views on the society he lived in.

41. An Autobiography by Jawaharlal Nehru (1936)

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, wrote this book while in prison from 1934–1935. He writes about his vision for modern India and his views on both history and the present.

42. Daughter of the East: An Autobiography by Benazir Bhutto (1988)

Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was a prime minister of Pakistan who was executed in 1979. In Daughter of the East, Benazir Bhutto writes about how she took up her father’s mantle and began leading the Pakistan People’s Party.

43. The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris (2019)

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris writes about her upbringing in an immigrant family in California, her passion for justice, and her rise to one of the highest leadership roles in the U.S. She also reckons with the truths that define her country and how we can face them.

Finally, let’s finish our list with some autobiographies written by incredible scientists. These people made discoveries that changed the world, and it’s fascinating to hear about the life events that led them to those discoveries.

science autobiographies

44. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson (1968)

James Watson writes about how he and his partner Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA. This tremendous breakthrough won them a Nobel Prize and revolutionized the future of biology.

45. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman (1985)

In this witty and lighthearted autobiography, Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, recounts his life in physics. His voice shines through in this book, which is simultaneously eccentric, funny, and brilliant.

46. My Brief History by Stephen Hawking (2013)

Stephen Hawking writes about how he triumphed over Lou Gehrig’s Disease to become one of the most famous scientists of all time. He also explains his breakthrough research into black holes and quantum gravity.

47. Letters from the Field, 1925–1975 by Margaret Mead (1977)

Margaret Mead sent letters to her family and friends while she was conducting field research in Samoa, New Guinea, Bali, and more. These smart, lyrical, and insightful letters show us the inner world of a wonderful scientist.

48. Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe: A Tribute to Five Decades of Wildlife Research, Education, and Conservation by Jane Goodall (2013)

Dr. Jane Goodall tells us about her groundbreaking studies of chimpanzee behavior and her philanthropic work across five decades. Photos accompany her writing to make this book come to life. 

49. An Appetite for Wonder: The Makings of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins (2013)

Richard Dawkins, a renowned evolutionary biologist, writes about his personal evolution as a scientist. An Appetite for Wonder covers his childhood in colonial Kenya, his education at Oxford, and his work championing a gene-centered perspective on evolution.

50. On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks (2015)

Dr. Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist who authored many bestselling books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. In On the Move , he writes about his childhood, his experience coming out as a gay man, his drug addiction, and many more personal experiences in a moving and incisive way.

There you have it—our picks for the top autobiographies of all time.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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Autobiography Samples: How to Write an Impressive Autobiography

An autobiography is said to be a window into a person's past life. Here we explain how to present facts about our life in a concise form.

Autobiography Sample

An autobiography is said to be a window into a person’s past life. Here we explain how to present facts about our life in a concise form.

Writing an autobiography could be an interesting journey taken to our past. It also gives you an opportunity to relive the best moments from your life. An autobiography is defined as a book about a person’s life written by the person himself/herself. William Taylor first used the term ‘autobiography’ although deprecatingly. According to him, autobiography was a hybrid word. A poet named Robert Southey used the word autobiography, in its current form, in 1809.

An autobiography is generally written in a narrative form. Although writing an autobiography is a challenging job (presenting all the details concisely), it could prove to be a rewarding experience in the end.


Having a good memory is one of the prerequisites for writing a detailed and elaborate autobiography. One needs to have the patience to write down details (memories) as and when he/she remembers them; therefore, it is recommended that you have quick access to a pen and paper so that you can put down facts without losing much time. An autobiography is however, not just a collection of facts about a person’s life. An introspective approach should be taken to relive and experience, once again, the feelings and emotions felt during certain striking incidents. The autobiography example and instructions given below should prove to be helpful. These instructions should help you to write an interesting story that is based on honest opinions.

Basic Autobiography Format

The autobiography sample and the points given below help you understand how to start with the process of writing. The points are explained one by one in the following paragraphs.

Basic Information The basic information includes details about the person in question and his/her family. Name of the person, names of parents & siblings, and other such details constitute the basic information. The birthplace, birth date, and birth order is included in these details.

Timeline Once the basic information is presented in the beginning, details about the person’s life follow in chronological order. Childhood years are generally given more importance because it is the most important phase from the point of development of personality. Achievements in academics and professional life are presented in subsequent sections. There are many who like to share experiences associated with the first salary/earning. Experience gained from the first job can be a turning point in a person’s life. Therefore, by mentioning such experiences, an autobiography can be made interesting. Tragic events (if any) that influenced a person’s life can also be mentioned.

First Experiences A separate section for mentioning first-time experiences should be made in your autobiography. Here are few examples of such experiences. First Bike First Day of School First day of College First Motorcycle First Job First Salary There are many such experiences that you can include in this section.

Striking Memories Special or striking memories should be included in this section. There many events in our life which we can’t forget easily. The impact they have on our lives is the reason why such memories accompany us for a long time.

People in Your Life In this section, you should present details about people who have influenced your life. You may speak about your relations with them, the way you conversed and the manner in which they influenced the process of decision making in your life.

Writing an Educational Autobiography

Writing an educational autobiography is one of the exercises which students are asked to take up to reflect upon their past. Such an exercise allows students to express themselves and present their thoughts clearly and concisely. Portraying a person’s educational life through words is the main objective of writing an educational autobiography. Therefore, it is necessary to cover as many events as possible that shaped you as a student.

Autobiography Example

The autobiography example given below has a simple format. The format used for this write-up resembles that of an essay; it gives a rough idea of how to write an autobiography. However, while writing an autobiography, you should present a detailed account of your life.

I was born and brought up in a nuclear family in Houston, Texas. We are a family of four: my parents, me and my younger brother. The school days offered me a lot to learn. Subjects like science, languages and history were of special interest to me. However, the mechanical process of learning never interested me.

Although I was good at studies throughout my academic life, sports, music, drawing, craft-work, etc., interested me the most. I was more inclined towards understanding the concepts rather than just memorizing them. After graduating with a major in biology, I took up nature photography. It was a decision that changed the entire course of my life. Through this profession, I was able to explore life in its varied forms. Also the knowledge of biology came in handy while exploring the flora and fauna. In a sense, photography has proved to be a catalyst in this process of change which completely transformed me.

My work as a nature photographer offers me immense satisfaction and great pleasure. Freezing the volatile moments with my camera teaches me how to deal with tricky situations in life. Working hard to pursue your goals and keeping a positive attitude are the qualities that help you when you are required to maintain a level-head in times of success and failure. These are the tools which help you overcome the toughest phases in life.

Now that I am in a position to enjoy my work, I would like to and take up new photography projects and explore different regions of the world. I want to work hard and excel in photography.

Tips for Writing an Autobiography

Autobiography Tips

1. Keep it simple. This is one thing you should keep in mind while writing an autobiography. You don’t have to exaggerate events from your life to make them look interesting. In fact, readers are interested in knowing the truth about you. There are so many interesting things which happen in our life. 2. Jotting down points before you actually start writing is a practice which helps freeze the volatile memories, which you won’t be able to recall the second time even if you wish to.

3. You should always write what you wish to write and not what you think is expected from you. Remember that the inhibitions/expectations which create doubts in the mind won’t be of any help while writing. Keeping them at bay should bring out the best in you. 4. Create an outline for your autobiography. It allows you to work on each event or instance from your life systematically. Breaking down the content into sections helps in keeping the readers interested in your story.

5. Take pride in your work. Put your best efforts in your autobiography. If you doubt your abilities you are unconsciously devaluing your creative work. Therefore, you need to write the autobiography without inhibitions and with supreme confidence. 6. Add Spice to your story. People will take interest in your autobiography if you make it an interesting read. Again, you shouldn’t resort to exaggerating events from your life. Just try to elaborate on them to make your autobiography an interesting

Writing an autobiography is a huge task. It requires great patience for putting the facts and experiences in a proper manner. Autobiographies are detailed accounts of a person’s life and therefore, they must be written with great care and responsibility.

The autobiography sample provided in the article above gives you a rough idea of how to write about yourself in an interesting manner. Autobiographies are detailed accounts of our lives which help us remember the happy and sad moments as well. One can draw inspiration from the determination and grit showed in tough times of the past and move on with a positive attitude.

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Autobiography Introduction Examples (5 Writing Styles)

Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD


Writing an autobiography is the finest way to regard something intriguing to communicate. Self-writing your autobiography is a fantastic way to preserve your family and friends with a keepsake.

There’s no right way to write an autobiography, but these five examples show you how to start writing your autobiography in various styles. Whether you’re a detail-oriented person who wants to write an extensive work of fiction or tell your story more straightforwardly, these examples can help. So get started and experiment with different writing styles to find the one that works best for you!

How to Write an Autobiography Introduction?

You’ll usually find a narrative about how that individual was born in the typical autobiography introduction. The character is just a character to the reader, regardless of whether or not an autobiography is a life story. To get to know you, readers need a frame of reference.

Some Key Rules to Follow to Write a Compelling Autobiography Introduction

Include the theme.

There must be a certain thesis or idea underlying the various chapters of your autobiography when you’re telling a life story to interest the reader. What you’re writing has a purpose, and you’ll help to pique people’s interest for the following tale you have to tell if you include that point in your autobiography introduction to give them an idea of what’s ahead.

Give Your Reader a Taste of Topics

Autobiographies provide a safe place to explore uncomfortable topics that would otherwise go unexplored. Since you’re using your life as a safety net for those uncertainties, this is the case. You’ll offer them the opportunity to decide whether they want to invest time reading the remainder of what you’ve written to provide the reader a taste of what topics you’ll be covering throughout the autobiography.

Include a Unique Event

An autobiography introduction might begin at the pivotal moment when everything starts to shift for you, much as a film begins at a key moment near the tale’s conclusion. When readers have had life experiences similar to yours, sharing the epiphany you had can help you sync with them on a very personal level.

Create a Rythm of Your Narrative

In your autobiography, it’s sometimes more important to establish a beat than to develop an argument or thesis statement. This is especially true when your tale is difficult for the average person to comprehend. You’ll reduce the shock your readers’ eyes experience by viewing your style before you dive into your main stories.

Do a Proper Formatting

Your autobiography introduction should be written in the same style as the remainder of your book. You may desire to make an individual chapter for this introduction if you’re writing a novel-length story (120,000-ish words). You’ll want to follow whatever writing style you want to use (expository, persuasive, or analytical) while writing an essay.

Just be Yourself

Too often, people try too hard to be something they’re not in the opening paragraph of their autobiography. Just be yourself, and everything will be okay. Write anything that comes to mind. To help integrate it into the main text you’ve created, repeat that idea several times after you write it down.

Apart from these, a story is an important element in autobiography because it clearly explains how the author’s life has been affected by significant events or people. Authors can strengthen their writing skills while sharing their own personal stories through interesting anecdotes, quotes, and stories. Be aware that a story should make you feel something emotionally–this could be your experience, starting with these simple tips!

5 Writing Styles of an Autobiography

5 Writing Styles of an Autobiography introducttion

This section will discuss the five writing styles of autobiography for you to choose from when writing about your life.

Full Autobiography

This sort of autobiography centers on a person’s entire life, from birth to today. If their whole lives are different, authors choose to write a full autobiography. You allow your readers to get to know you better by writing a full or traditional autobiography.

Elia Kazan’s book , ‘A Life’ is a good example of a complete autobiography. One of the United States founders, Benjamin Franklin, wrote an autobiography that is another good example .

The autobiography of Nelson Mandela is one of the most famous autobiographies in world history. He led his country to great accomplishments through political, social, and cultural change with a nonviolent protest against oppression during apartheid. Nelson Mandela’s autobiography includes his life story from early childhood until today. His story shows what he has done for his country and how he became South Africa’s first black president after many years of imprisoned by white minority rule in South Africa.

Personal Essay

It’s one of the earliest types of personal writing. Compared to the other three types of writing, a personal essay is the most creative and intimate. The tone and style are emphasized rather than the plot in this kind of writing.

You must combine your emotions, ideas, and personal discovery into your existence or a trip. Diane Ackerman’s essay, “A Natural History of the Senses,” is a fantastic personal essay example.

Historians often write memoirs, but one compelling memoir on children was by E. Boyd Barrett: “The Boy Who Pulled Himself Up By His Bootstraps.” He shares how he overcame adversity to become a great and powerful man in his memoir. He is known as the “boy who walked 2 miles in an hour” because of his superhuman strength, which enabled him at age 9 to pull himself up on the outside window ledge!

A memoir concentrates on a certain location, period, or connection. The first-person perspective is used in memoirs. Since it concentrates on a key portion of your life, it is less comprehensive than the conventional autobiography. It may be about who you are now and your childhood years, and it might be about who you are because of your interaction with someone.

Those who have done something wrong write this type of autobiography. In the hope that other people may learn from their errors, they take solace in writing about them. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions is a good example to look at.

Autobiographies are a great way to write about one’s life. It gives readers a clear understanding of the writer through their own story instead of creating some impression or fake person, which most writers anticipate for their works. However, this way does not always work well, and sometimes it turns out to be a failure that would give rise to many different scenarios in life and can even result in death.

Psychological Illness

Individuals who have had any mental illness find writing down their feelings therapeutic in this autobiography. Even though some people’s concerns are listened to by knowledgeable persons, writing down your tales is more comfortable. Esmé Weijun Wang’s book, The Collected Schizophrenias, is noteworthy.

How should high school students write autobiographies?

Answer: High school students might use an autobiography example for high school admission essays to connect with their own or other life experiences. You may find high school application essay examples in this article of a short autobiographical narrative (i.e., not more than ten pages) that you can copy and paste into your sentences (or paragraphs). Writing a high school admissions essay is easier by using someone else’s story as your starting point.

What is the ideal writing process for an autobiography?

Answer: The writing process allows writing the autobiography based on your knowledge and skills. This can help gain the public’s attention for you and provide an opportunity to learn new information about yourself or what others know about you. Using proper grammar with good spelling will make it easier for your audience to understand what you are trying to say in the essay, thus improving its meaning through clarity alone.

Is there a difference between an introduction and a preface?

Answer: There is a difference between an introduction and a preface, but they are typically used before a document or piece of writing. An introduction is a short statement that sets the scene for the rest of the document, while a preface is a longer overview that contextualizes the work.

How do you start an autobiography’s first sentence?

Answer: There is no one “right” way to start an autobiography. Still, some popular methods include recounting your childhood, describing your early experiences in your career, or sharing stories about significant events in your life. The important thing is to get started and to keep the momentum going. It is also helpful to keep track of what you have written and revise as needed. There is no right or wrong way to start an autobiography, as it is ultimately up to the individual to decide what they want to share with the world. Just be sure to have fun and let your imagination run wild! In the autobiography intro, you’ll need to introduce the reader. You can remind the reader why they should be interested in your story and what it is about. Some people like a good anecdote at the beginning because this helps them grasp and remember the most important point or principle within your life experience so far – which will make them interested in reading further with your book idea.

What is an autobiographical essay or autobiography essay?

Answer: An autobiographical essay is a form of essay that focuses on the writer’s memories or experiences. Autobiographical essays are written in first-person point-of-view, and they explain how one came to be who they are today, including their background information, values, and life goals.

Final Words

Writing an autobiography introduction is a daunting task, but it can be a very powerful tool in your arsenal with the right approach. This blog post will discuss the rules of writing an autobiography introduction with five different writing styles and include some FAQs to help you better understand the process. After reading this post, hopefully, you will have a better idea of what to expect when writing your autobiography introduction.

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Hi, I am a doctor by profession, but I love writing and publishing ebooks. I have self-published 3 ebooks which have sold over 100,000 copies. I am featured in Healthline, Entrepreneur, and in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology blog.

Whether you’re a busy professional or an aspiring author with a day job, there’s no time like now to start publishing your ebook! If you are new to this world or if you are seeking help because your book isn’t selling as well as it should be – don’t worry! You can find here resources, tips, and tricks on what works best and what doesn’t work at all.

In this blog, I will help you to pick up the right tools and resources to make your ebook a best seller.

2 thoughts on “Autobiography Introduction Examples (5 Writing Styles)”

Thank you so much for this. My wife is compiling her memories of growing up to poor parents during WW2 and up to the present day. I’m assembling these into some sort of continuous narrative and I really needed help on how to begin. Thankfully, Jan’s paragraphs do fit in with your advice. You ask for a website. I’ve had three medieval adventure stories published that are centred around the town of Dudley. I hope that it’s still in operation. Jan’s work describes growing up in nearby Tipton.

Dear Robert, Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for sharing your thoughts with me. I’m delighted to hear that my tips on autobiography introduction have been helpful in guiding you and your wife’s project.

It sounds like your wife’s story is both interesting and important, and I wish you both the best of luck in bringing her memories to life. I’m glad to hear that Jan’s paragraphs align with the advice I’ve provided.

Best regards, Sharon

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How to Start an Autobiography – 4 Great Examples

  • by Barry Fox
  • 04/07/2015 08/31/2023

how to start an autobiography, four examples

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

How to start your autobiography can be a tricky issue.

how to start an autobiography, four examples

Do you begin with your birth? With a description of your parents, or maybe even your grandparents?

How about beginning with the first notable thing you did? Or starting off with the biggest crisis point in your life, and then going back to the beginning?

There is no single “best” way to start an autobiography. But there are different approaches. The key is to find the one that works best for your story.

If you’d like to hire a ghostwriter to help you with your autobiography, contact Barry Fox & Nadine Taylor .

How to start an autobiography: 4 examples

Here are excerpts showing four interesting ways that have been used to open an autobiography. One author uses his birth name to foreshadow the life that lies ahead; one paints a simple sketch of his parents; one talks about the beliefs that shaped him; and one reflects on the influence of chance.

Each opening is different, and each is just right for its subject. Perhaps one of these approaches will be right for you! (I’ve linked the titles of each book below to Amazon so you can click on the “Look Inside” button and read more.)

With a hint…

In the opening paragraph of Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela , the former President of South Africa hints at the tumultuous life he must face:

Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, Rolihlahla literally means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be “trouble maker.” I do not believe that names are destiny or that my father somehow divined my future, but in later years, friends and relatives would ascribe to my birth name the many storms I have both caused and weathered.

With a sketch…

In Take Me Home , singer-songwriter John Denver uses only a few words to sketch a portrait of his parents:

They met in Tulsa. Dad was a ploughboy from western Oklahoma; Mom was a hometown girl. He was in the Army Air Corps, studying the mechanics of flight at the Spartan School of Aeronautics, and she had been first-prize winner in a jitterbug contest the year before. It was 1942: She was just turning eighteen, a high-school senior; and he was twenty-one.

With a list…

Chris Kyle begins his American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military Histor y , by listing the lifelong beliefs he inherited from his family and environment:

Every story has a beginning.

Mine starts in north-central Texas. I grew up in small towns where I learned the importance of family and tradition. Values, like patriotism, self-reliance, and watching out for your family and neighbors. I’m proud to say that I still try to live my life according to those values. I have a strong sense of justice. It’s pretty much black-and-white. I don’t see too much gray. I think it’s important to protect others. I don’t mind hard work. At the same time, I like to have fun; life’s too short not to.

With reflection…

Former President Ronald Reagan opens An American Life by talking about the effects of chance:

If I’d gotten the job I wanted at Montgomery Ward, I suppose I never would have left Illinois.

I’ve often wondered at how lives are shaped by what seem like small and inconsequential events, how an apparently random turn in the road can lead you a long way from where you intended to go—and a long way from wherever you expected to go. For me, the first of these turns occurred in the summer of 1932, in the abyss of the Depression.

How to start an autobiography?

There is no single best way. The goal is to draw your readers in with your first sentence—to make them want to read more by telling them something about you that makes you and your life story irresistible.

If you can do that, you’ve figured out how to start an autobiography.

Before deciding how you’d like to open your autobiography, go back and review the purpose of the autobiography and consider what it must contain.

Once you know where you’re headed, you’ll be able to zero in on the “right” opening more effectively.

See also “How to Write Your Autobiography” and “How to Write a Memoir.”


four examples of how to start an autobiography

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For more information, call us at 818-917-5362 or use the contact form below to send us a message.

We’d love to talk to you about your exciting autobiography!

Please Note: Although we’re based in Los Angeles, California, we travel around the U.S. and abroad to meet with our authors.  We do not ghostwrite screenplays, books for children, poetry, or school papers.

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English Grammar Lessons And Worksheets

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Class 10 Creative Writing | Autobiography Sample

by Manjusha Nambiar · Published November 16, 2019 · Updated November 16, 2019

A biography is the account of the life of a person written by someone else. For instance, Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’ is a biography. An autobiography is the story of a person’s life written by himself. Examples are Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Autobiography’ and Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘My experiments with Truth’.

  • Autobiography Writing Tips

When you write the autobiography of an animal or an inanimate object, you must try to put yourself in the position of the object or animal you are writing about and imagine the things it would feel, see, hear or say if it were alive.

  • Write in the first person.
  • Try to make the story as interesting as possible. Use simple language.

What to Avoid?

Don’t commit the mistake of making animals say things that are impossible or illogical. For instance, you must end the autobiography before the animal dies. How can an animal write after its death? A sample autobiography is given below.

The Autobiography Of A Rupee

I was born in a building called the Mint. My parent was a metal strip from which we were made round. There after we were embossed with two ears of corn and the figure 1 with the words ‘Rupee’ and ‘1981’ to indicate the year of birth on one side. On the other side, the Lion Capital and the words ‘Bharat’ in Hindi and ‘India’ in English were embossed. Each disc was given milled edge too. After finishing they called us, ‘rupee coins’. In shining metal and with the figure and letters very beautiful and distinct, I was very proud of my smart appearance.

My active life began when I was removed from the mint and paid over the counter of a bank to a gentleman who cashed a cheque. He put me into a leather bag; but I was not there for a long time as he gave me to a shopper. The shopper must have been very pleased with me, for he shut me up in a greasy drawer. I remained there a close prisoner for many months, till at last I was exchanged for two 50 paise coins. My new master was a miserable old fellow. He threw me into an iron chest where I found five hundred more of my own species lying in the same confinement. I remained a prisoner for several years. And then one day I was taken out by a young man. He gave me to a young lady who put me in her purse. She soon gave me to her servant to pay the grocer’s bill. I thus rambled merrily from pocket to pocket till I was worn out. The corn plant became invisible and the lettering on my back became almost rubbed out. I was deemed useless for the world and everyone I was offered to refused to accept me. Eventually I was given away in charity to a blind beggar. The beggar bought a tea in exchange for me. The tea dealer put me in his box from where I was extracted by his son who took me to a toy shop. The shopper banged me on to the ground to see if I was genuine. He looked at me closely, made a few insulting remarks about my battered condition but in the end accepted me with great reluctance. At last I was sent back to the Mint. I found many more of my species there all time honored old fellows, but in bad shape now. It was being whispered that we were to be cast into a furnace and turned again into the base material of our bodies only to be recast again. (Adapted)

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creative writing autobiography examples

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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Memoir vs Autobiography

Memoir vs Autobiography

The literary realms of memoir and autobiography reveals a nuanced landscape where personal narratives take center stage, yet each genre follows its distinct path. While both memoirs and autobiographies present the story of a life as told by the individual who lived it, they diverge in scope and focus, inviting readers into the author’s world through the lens of first-person narration. Memoirs offer a window into specific vignettes or periods, painting vivid pictures of moments that have shaped the author’s perspective, often tied together by a central theme or emotional journey. This selective exploration allows for a deep dive into the intricacies of human experience, emphasizing the subjective interpretation of events.

Autobiographies, by contrast, commit to a broader sweep, chronicling the author’s journey from birth to the present in a comprehensive and chronological manner. This genre demands a commitment to factual accuracy and historical context, often serving as a legacy piece that encapsulates the entirety of the author’s life. The distinction between these two forms of personal storytelling is crucial for students and readers alike, as it illuminates not only the author’s intent but also the impact these narratives have on our understanding of the human condition. Through the exploration of memoirs and autobiographies, we are invited to reflect on the nature of memory, identity, and the art of storytelling itself.

Memoir vs Autobiography – Meanings Memoir: A memoir is a form of narrative writing where the author recounts and reflects upon specific episodes or phases in their life, emphasizing personal experiences and the emotional journey associated with them. Rather than a comprehensive life history, memoirs focus on profound moments or themes, offering insights into the author’s inner world and how particular events have shaped their perspective. This genre allows for a more intimate exploration of subjectivity and memory, often presenting a thematic or episodic structure rather than a chronological one. Autobiography: An Autobiography is a structured, chronological account of the author’s life, detailing experiences from birth to the present day. It aims to provide a factual, comprehensive overview of the author’s entire life, including significant milestones, challenges, and achievements. Autobiographies often incorporate broader historical and cultural contexts, giving readers a detailed backdrop against which the author’s life unfolded. This genre emphasizes factual accuracy and completeness, serving as a historical document that captures the entirety of the author’s personal and professional journey.

Memoir and autobiography are closely related nonfiction genres that both delve into the author’s life story, narrated in the first person, making extensive use of personal pronouns like “I” and “me.” Despite their apparent similarities, including their factual basis and personal narrative style, they diverge in scope and intent. Memoirs offer a curated glimpse into pivotal moments or themes, weaving a tapestry of significant experiences that have shaped the author’s identity and worldview. In contrast, autobiographies present a comprehensive, chronological exploration of the author’s life, providing a detailed and historical documentation from birth to the present, encapsulating the full spectrum of life’s events and milestones.

Difference Between Memoir and Autobiography

Memoirs , with their reflective and thematic nature, invite readers into the author’s heart and mind, spotlighting transformative moments and emotional truths. Autobiographies , on the other hand, offer a panoramic view of the author’s journey, meticulously charting the course from birth to the present, often within a broader historical and societal context. This comparison aims to illuminate the unique qualities of each genre, guiding readers, writers, and students in distinguishing between these closely related but fundamentally different narratives.

By exploring these distinctions, readers and writers alike can better appreciate the depth and breadth of personal storytelling, whether it’s capturing the essence of pivotal moments in a memoir or chronicling the expansive narrative of a life in an autobiography.

Examples of Memoir and Autobiography

examples of memoir and autobiography

Memoirs allow authors to delve into specific facets of their lives, offering readers a glimpse into their personal experiences, emotions, and reflections on pivotal moments. These narratives often focus on a particular theme or period, bringing forth a deep, introspective journey.

Memoir Examples:

  • “She recounted her year in Paris, exploring self-discovery in her memoir .”
  • “His memoir vividly describes the challenges of growing up in a war-torn country.”
  • “In her memoir , she shares the lessons learned from a decade of humanitarian work.”
  • “The memoir delves into his journey of overcoming addiction and finding redemption.”
  • “Her memoir paints a poignant picture of life as a first-generation immigrant.”

Autobiographies present a comprehensive account of an individual’s life, narrated from birth to the present. These works often weave personal achievements and challenges into the broader historical and cultural context of the author’s lifetime.

Autobiography Examples:

  • “In his autobiography , he details his rise from humble beginnings to a celebrated scientist.”
  • “Her autobiography chronicles the journey from a small town to becoming a renowned actress.”
  • “The autobiography covers his entire career in public service, highlighting key reforms.”
  • “She traces her lineage and personal growth in her revealing autobiography .”
  • “His autobiography offers insights into the tech industry’s evolution through his eyes.”

When to Use Memoir and Autobiography

when to use memoir and autobiography

Choosing between writing a memoir and an autobiography depends on the author’s intent, the story they wish to tell, and how they want to connect with their audience.

Usage of Memoir 

  • You want to focus on specific, impactful periods or themes in your life rather than a comprehensive chronology.
  • You’re aiming to explore and reflect on the emotional and philosophical lessons learned from your experiences.
  • You prefer a narrative that allows for a more creative and less linear structure, centered around personal growth, particular events, or relationships.
  • Your goal is to engage readers on a deeply personal level, offering insights into your perceptions and internal experiences.

Usage of Autobiography 

  • You intend to provide a detailed account of your life from birth to the present, covering all major phases and milestones.
  • You aim to document your life’s achievements, challenges, and contributions within a broader historical, cultural, or professional context.
  • You’re committed to factual accuracy and chronological structure, offering a historical record of your life.
  • Your purpose is to leave a legacy that encapsulates your life’s journey, providing a factual reference for readers interested in your entire life story.

How is an memoir and autobiography structured?

Memoir structure.

  • Introduction : Introduces the theme or central idea of the memoir, often with an engaging hook to draw readers in.
  • Chronological : Events are presented in the order they occurred, focusing on specific periods or events in the author’s life related to the central theme.
  • Thematic : The memoir is organized around themes or lessons rather than in strict chronological order, weaving different times and events together based on subject matter.
  • Vivid Descriptions and Reflections : Detailed descriptions of people, places, and events, coupled with the author’s personal reflections and emotional responses.
  • Character Development : Focus on the growth and changes in the author over time, highlighting turning points and key experiences.
  • Climax or Turning Point : A pivotal event or realization that represents the peak of the narrative arc, often leading to a significant change or insight.
  • Resolution and Conclusion : Wraps up the narrative, tying together the main themes and reflecting on the journey, sometimes looking to the future or offering a final thought or lesson learned.

Autobiography Structure

  • Early Life and Background : Introduction to the author’s family background, childhood, and formative experiences.
  • Linear Narrative : The story unfolds in a linear fashion, detailing the author’s life from early years through adulthood, in a more comprehensive manner than a memoir.
  • Educational and Career Milestones : Emphasis on the author’s education, career development, and significant achievements.
  • Significant Relationships and Influences : Discussion of key relationships and people who have had a significant impact on the author’s life and development.
  • Challenges and Overcoming Adversity : Accounts of major obstacles, challenges, and how they were overcome, contributing to the author’s character and life story.
  • Personal Philosophy and Reflections : Insights into the author’s beliefs, values, and philosophical outlook on life, often intertwined with their life story.
  • Later Life and Legacy : The later stages of the author’s life, their reflections on their experiences, and thoughts on their legacy and contributions.
  • Conclusion : A final overview of the author’s life, encapsulating the key messages and lessons of the autobiography, and sometimes offering advice or inspiration to the reader.

Tips for Memoir and Autobiography

  • Reflect Deeply : Before writing, spend time reflecting on key life moments and the lessons learned from them.
  • Identify a Central Theme : Determine the core message or theme of your story to provide focus and coherence.
  • Create a Structured Outline : Organize your thoughts and memories to guide your writing process and ensure a logical flow.
  • Emphasize Emotional Truth : Share your experiences with honesty and vulnerability to create a genuine connection with readers.
  • Utilize Vivid Descriptions : Use sensory details and vivid imagery to bring your story to life and immerse readers in your experiences.
  • Incorporate Dialogue : Use conversations to add dynamism and reveal character traits and pivotal moments.
  • Connect with Broader Themes : Relate your personal story to larger historical, cultural, or social contexts for added depth.
  • Edit and Revise Thoroughly : Be prepared to refine your work, focusing on clarity and emotional impact.
  • Maintain Your Unique Voice : Ensure your personal tone and style are evident throughout your narrative.
  • Seek Feedback and Guidance : Consider input from trusted individuals or professionals to enhance your manuscript.

What are the key similarities between memoir and autobiography?

Both memoirs and autobiographies are nonfiction narratives focusing on the author’s life. They often include personal experiences, reflections, and significant events, presenting a detailed account of the author’s journey, allowing readers to gain insights into their perspectives and challenges.

How do memoirs and autobiographies differ?

Memoirs typically focus on specific themes or periods within the author’s life, emphasizing emotional experiences and personal growth. Autobiographies provide a more comprehensive life history, detailing the author’s entire life from birth to the present or up until the writing of the book.

Should I write a memoir or autobiography?

Choose to write a memoir if you wish to share poignant, thematic stories from your life, focusing on emotional truths and personal growth. Opt for an autobiography if your goal is to document your entire life story, offering a chronological and factual account of your experiences.

How do you end a memoir?

End your memoir by reflecting on the journey shared, highlighting the lessons learned and how these experiences have shaped you. A compelling conclusion often ties back to the beginning, offering closure and leaving readers with a lasting impression of your personal growth and insights

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How to structure an autobiography to make it readable

Writing your autobiography might feel like it should be the most intuitive thing you’ll ever do. You lived through those experiences, and you know those stories so well. And yet, far too many would-be autobiography writers fall at the first hurdle. Even though they know broadly what they want to say, they never quite work out what to write about in an autobiography.

So, in this article, I want to give you the resources and insight you need to write an autobiography or biography. You’ll see how getting the structure of an autobiography right is key to telling your story effectively and interestingly.

creative writing autobiography examples

How do you know what to write about in an autobiography? The accumulated stories of your life could probably fill a dozen books. So how do you cram it all into a single volume?

If you want to write a book that focusses in greater detail on a few elements of your life, you should write a memoir . From collections of stories about family or work to stories of struggle and survival, the memoir is the perfect vehicle for books with a smaller remit.

But in this article, we’re focussing on how to write an interesting autobiography, which is a more detailed process. We’re going to break it down into three parts:

  • What to write about in an autobiography

The structure of a biography or autobiography

  • How to write an interesting autobiography

The good news is that when you know what to write about in an autobiography, it will help you establish a lot about the structure of your autobiography. And, when you’ve got those two things ticked off, you’ll find it significantly easier to write an interesting autobiography.  

How do you decide what to write about in an autobiography?

Start by making a long list of the things you could write about in your autobiography. Make your list roughly chronological so that you can see how the incidents connect in your personal timeline. Write anything and everything down at this stage.

I suggest you keep working on your list for several weeks. The more you think about it, and the more often you return to it, the easier it will be to extract every possible story you might want to tell. When you have a comprehensive list, I’d leave it a little longer before you take your next step. Go back to your list days (or even weeks) later and look for clues as to how you can tell your story:

  • See if there are there any common themes that bind some of your stories together. It’s easier to build a book if the stories naturally coalesce around a single idea or theme.
  • Think about your life’s journey and look for narrative threads that help you tell that story.
  • Look for any stories that give the most authentic sense of who you are, and how you want to be remembered.
  • Look for – and remove – any stories that don’t feel interesting or relevant.

It’s not just a question of what to write about in an autobiography, you need to consider what not to write about

Given that a biography or autobiography encompasses a whole lifetime of activities, you need to decide what makes the grade in your story and what doesn’t. Knowing who’s going to read your book will help you make the right decisions.

Are you writing your book for family and friends? For a business audience? For a cohort of people who have encountered similar life issues? Keep that audience in mind at all times? Write with them in mind.

If you’re not sure what deserves a place in your autobiography, just picture your readers and ask yourself these questions:

Will this part of my story genuinely interest my readers?

Does this material add anything meaningful to the story I’m telling?

Am I comfortable telling this part of my story?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ it doesn’t belong in your book.

Distilling your life into the stories that will survive you

If you’re struggling to home in on the events you want to focus on in your autobiography, it might help you to remember that this book will survive you.

The stories you tell will still be there for people to read about years from now. That can help you to home in on the things that really matter; the things that will define the life you’ve lived.

Some people find the easiest way to distil their life story into a cohesive narrative is to write more than they need, and edit out material at the end of the process. That takes a bit more work, but when you can see the whole story written down, it’s generally easier to identify what really belongs in your book, and what doesn’t.  

Think carefully about the audience for your book

This question of what to write about in an autobiography gets easier the closer you get to your intended audience.  

Run though that list of stories for possible inclusion in your book and see if any of them jump out as being particularly interesting or appropriate for your audience. Equally, there may be some stories that will need to justify their inclusion. For example,

  • Will your family be interested in lots of stories from your work life?
  • Will a wider audience of people reading your survival-against-the-odds story want to know about your life now? Perhaps, if that gives them hope for their own future.
  • Will your children want to know about some of your less savoury stories? They might well do (when they reach an appropriate age) if you present them in a way that will amuse and / or give them the benefit of your reflections on those events.
  • Are you comfortable telling certain stories if they’re controversial in your family? Will telling them pour oil on troubled waters or make matters worse?

Don’t just think about what your readers will be interested in now, think about what might interest them in the future. For example, if you’re writing an autobiography for your children (or grandchildren) there will be insights, stories and reflections that will mean more to them as time passes.

If I were writing my autobiography for my (now) teenage children, I know they’d be interested to read my stories of their childhood escapades. And, as time goes on, and they grow up and potentially have their own children, they’ll probably be even more interested to read about my reflections on being a parent.

In other words, there will be a point when your experiences and theirs match. When what you have to say on any given subject might suddenly feel very relevant. So, try and write an autobiography that will stay relevant to your audience.

If you take nothing else from this article, the single most important lesson for how to write an interesting autobiography is this:

Your autobiography can – and should – obey many of the same rules as fiction.

Just because you’re telling a real story, as opposed to a work of fiction, the same elements of structure, tension and release, and story arc will make your book richer and more engaging.

Let’s discuss the actual section-by-section, chapter-by-chapter structure of your book.

When we talk about structure in books, we’re essentially talking about giving your book a beginning, a middle and an end, and about the chapters that fit within that structure.

We’re also talking about making sure your book progresses organically from event to event. Your reader needs to feel like your book is heading somewhere; it flows.

Try a three-act structure

You certainly don’t have to stick to some rigid structure, but it can help to think of your story like a three-act drama. An example of a simple three-act structure for a biography or autobiography would comprise a beginning, concentrating on the early years of your life, a middle featuring the bulk of the events you want to cover, and an end which brings all of the threads of the story together.

You certainly don’t have to divide your book into three parts. But having the idea of a three-act structure in mind can help you to simplify your storytelling.

Remember that the structure could be thematic, rather than chronological. For example, the introductory stage could be meeting the love of your life, the body of the book could be about your life together, and the concluding section could focus on how your family has grown.

Or, the introductory chapter could focus on the emergence of a great difficulty in your life. The second section would focus on your dealing with it. The third section could illustrate how you overcame it and what you learnt from it.

Break the structure

One of the best things about the ‘rules’ governing the structure of a biography or autobiography is that they are there to be broken…

Just because you adopt a three-act structure, it doesn’t mean you have to start your autobiography at the beginning. It can be very effective – and dramatically justified – to start your story at the end.

Or, you can apply a structure, but still break it up with interludes, diversions, and lists that add supplementary information or insights. A couple of examples:

In a book for a client who had travelled extensively, we devised funny little Trip Advisor style summaries of some of her travel destinations, and interspersed them throughout the book.

A fan of the weird and uncanny who had collected stories of some of life’s stranger happenings included them as an interlude in his book, giving readers enough information to go and pursue their own research into any of the stories that interested them.

Take the reader on a journey

Great books – whether they’re narrative non-fiction or fiction – take their readers on a journey. So, rather than simply chronicling the events of your life, you can find a narrative thread to resemble a hero’s journey narrative, or other dramatic form.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can do that…

Find the thread that binds your story together

Make a chronological list of the major (and interesting or exciting) events of your life. Look at your list and ask some questions to help you find the thread that binds your story together:

  • How did you get from your childhood to where you are now?
  • What were the turning points or moments of crisis along the way?
  • Who were the people who helped or hindered you in your journey?
  • What are the things in your past that suggested where you were going in the future?
  • How did you realise your childhood or youthful dreams?
  • How did you overcome a significant adversity in life?

Finding an appropriate story thread makes writing your autobiography significantly easier. You give yourself a set up, a complication or crisis, and a resolution – all essential components of an interesting and well-told story.

One of the hardest parts of writing an autobiography for many people is having far too much information to include and not knowing what to exclude. Working this way helps you to eliminate all of the material that doesn’t contribute to the main storyline.

Think of it like telling the story of a football match that focusses on the actions of a single player. Your reader would still understand the outcome of the match. They’ll still understand how that player interacted with their teammates, and came into conflict with other players. They won’t get a full match report, but they will get a very focussed story of the game from one angle.

Use your chapters to help you write an interesting autobiography

The way you divide your story into chapters is another way of injecting interest into your autobiography. Whether using cliffhangers to keep readers hanging on to see what happens next, or using chapter breaks to signal changes in tone, your chapters are a useful resource.

In terms of structure, remember that each chapter should be like a scene in a film. They should advance your story in some way, and tell a self-contained piece of the story. If you’re telling a part of the story that requires more space than other parts of your story consider splitting your chapter at a critical moment to create your dramatic cliffhanger ending.

You can do interesting things to the structure of your book with your use of chapters. An incredibly short chapter could be an amusing way of skipping over a part of your story that you don’t want to tell, but that you know people are expecting to read about, e.g.

Reader, I married him.

Spoiler alert. It went really badly, really quickly!

Have fun with your chapters. From the way you name them, to the quotes you use to add interest, to the way you format them, all these things can help make your autobiography more interesting and distinctive.

If you’d like to know more, have a look at this article on chapters , covering the optimal length of chapters, when to use chapter breaks, and the issue of how you can use chapters to help you structure your biography or autobiography.

How to write an interesting autobiography? Remember that the principles of telling a traditional story apply

There’s plenty more you can do to keep things interesting for your readers. Remember that, just like fiction, a compelling autobiography will:

Provide good introductions for all the major characters

You don’t have to talk about everyone you reference in depth, but when it comes to the key players in your life story, make sure you introduce them properly.

Hinge on moments of tension and release

This is the basis of all good drama. Even if you have not lived a life of ‘high drama’ that doesn’t mean dramatic, momentous, stressful, or important things haven’t happened to you. And these are all potential sources of drama.

Be truthful

It’s easy to exaggerate our achievements and nobody will object to you using a bit of dramatic license now and then, However, the more honest and truthful your book is, the more powerful it will be.  

Tie it all up at the end

In this article, we’ve covered the three areas of 1) what to write about in an autobiography, 2) the structure of a biography or autobiography, and 3) how to write an interesting autobiography. We introduced the subject in broad terms, then drilled down into more detail on each subject, much like you might do in your autobiography.

By this stage, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can write your autobiography in a way that does justice to the life you’ve lived. I hope you find that, as a result, writing your autobiography feels more intuitive.

I’m here to help you edit your autobiography , or you can hire me as a writing mentor . Or, if you’d like me to ghostwrite your life story for you, book a ghostwriting consultation and we’ll talk it over…

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