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What is a Memoir? - Your Life as Story

Updated on April 26, 2013

Memoir - Learning the Craft of Memoir Writing

What is a Memoir? What a memoir actually is seems to cause some confusion with the general public.

Simply stated, it's a story about one portion of your life as opposed to your whole life.

It could be about a time period like childhood, teen years, retirement, etc... Or, it can be about the years you lived abroad or your years in the military.

That's what this book does. It helps you narrow and focus your writing. Ms. Rainer has included advice and exercises to help the budding memoirist to come up with the story they really want to tell.

Whether you will write your memoir story for yourself, your family or for the general public, Your Life as Story is an indispensable tool!

Image: Your Life as Story by Tristine Ranier

Your Life As Story -- Figuring Out What Should Make Up Your Memoir - by Tristine Rainer

Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature
Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature

Filled with sage advice such as: writing tips, fiction writing techniques, games to play with your memory, story elements, ethical concerns and so much more, this book is a must for anyone who wants to write about their life. It doesn't matter if it's just for yourself, a part of your family history or if you plan to publish it.

Ms. Rainer will assist you from start to finish in writing memoir.

What is a Memoir
What is a Memoir

The Story Only You Can Tell

Writing Tips are Awesome!

Ms. Rainer opens chapter one by talking about the story only you can tell. She talks about looking at your life and the stories within your life from a distance. Picking out themes, meanings and lessons in order to find the story you will write.

She uses examples for her own life, the lives of different people she's met and students she's had in class. It's a wonderful start to the book. I re-read that chapter on more than one occasion.

The gems of wisdom she shares prepares you for the more in depth task of narrowing the topic and then bringing it into focus so you can write it.

Image: Public Domain via

What About You?

Do you have a story worth writing -- no matter who it's for?

See results

This Book:

This Book is not a quick read. I have read it, re-read it, relished the lessons and started all over again. It is a book you will visit time and again if you decide to write a memoir.

It's just that good.

What is Memoir - 2
What is Memoir - 2

What is a Story?

Ms. Rainer Breaks It Down

In order to write any book, including memoir, you have to understand the architecture of a story -- the elements that make a story.

With chapter titles like: What is a Story? and Nine Essential Elements of Story Structure, Ms. Rainer guides you through the process of learning to write a story people will read and understand.

We don't always think linearly but a story is different. People expect certain basic elements in a story or it's not a story.

Image: DecoratingforEvents - Mandee

This Book Belongs in Your Personal Library if You Write or Want to Write - No Matter the Genre

Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature
Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature

Tristine Rainer's advice, suggestions and exercises will benefit a writer of any genre. Breaking it all down and analyzing a story from the reader's perceptive makes you that much more prepared to write.


Genre Debate - What is a Memoir?

I read both fiction and non-fiction genres and love them both. But, since I was in elementary school where I discovered memoirs, biographies and autobiographies, I have really enjoyed reading those too. True life stories of real people with real adventures, challenges and problems, just like me. I think they give me hope -- real hope.

Do you read mostly non-fiction or do you prefer to stick with fiction?

Whether your aim is preservation of family history, self awareness, or the New York Times bestseller list, you will find expert guidance within these pages.

~ Rebecca Short, Amazon Review

What is a Memoir, Anyway? - Short Video with an Awesome Explanation (2:24 minutes)

Hand Pen Holder with Magnetic Back

In 22 chapters, and 368 pages, Ms. Rainer is your teacher and guide to writing memoir. Everything from finding your story to narrowing focus; from searching your memory to finding your voice; from how to portray yourself and others to truth in your memoir; from description to scene structure to dialog; she's got you covered!

She even includes a chapter entitled Emotional, Legal and Ethical Concerns. It really is an all-in-one resource you will refer to again and again.


Writing a true story from your life and applying literary devices to that writing. It ends up reading as a fiction novel would but is a true life story. We get to grow and learn with you by reading your story.

Memoir Examples | Learn by Example
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Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past by William ZinsserCHECK PRICE

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LamottCHECK PRICE

How to Write Your Own Life Story: The Classic Guide for the Nonprofessional Writer by Lois DanielCHECK PRICE

Writing Your Life: Putting Your Past on Paper by Lou W. StanekCHECK PRICE

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie GoldbergCHECK PRICE

Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, William Zinsser, EditorCHECK PRICE

If you are contemplating writing a memoir, I strongly suggest reading Tristine Rainer's book, Your Life As Story. She can't tell your story for you but gives you the tools to find and write your story.

A Must for Anyone Contemplating Writing a Memoir - I've Got My Copy -- Do You?

Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature
Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature

When I first started thinking about memoir writing, I ran across this book. I bought it and am so glad I did. My poor copy is coffee stained, dog-eared and the spine is hardly readable because I refer to it so often. You will too!


Memoir Definition & Memoir Examples for Anyone
Memoir examples is one way to learn about the genre but it can also open a world of questions for aspiring memoir writers like "What is the definition o...

Quiz: What is Memoir?
There is much confusion about a memoir definition. People use the words autobigraphy, memoir, biography and creative non-fiction interchangeably. Is that cor...

Memoir How To
Learning how to start a memoir and some of the writing elements that should be included is the goal of this memoir how to. You need the tools to be successfu...

Do you have this memoir writing book? - If not, will you get it?

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    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 5 years ago

      Thanks for reviewing a book that seems to be a well loved book by you. Gives me confidence that if I ever wanted to write a memoir, this would be the book to set me in the right direction.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 5 years ago

      @Wednesday-Elf: Yes, Miss Elf -- you need to start writing them out! Now!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 5 years ago

      @Ruthi: Awesome Ruthi! I know you'll love it!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 5 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Virginia, I think you will love it! You write a lot about family history and memoirs. Check this one out -- I think your memoir group would get a lot out of it! Good luck and happy writing!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      I'll have a look at this one. I'm just starting a memoir writing group and have 18 people signed up for it.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      Thank you for an excellent book review and I have just ordered Your Life as Story, thanks to you! I need this book staring at me so I will write my story(s).

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      This looks like a very valuable resource for anyone who wants to do memoir writing. Excellent interview explaining Memoir as 'your memories'. I consider myself a storyteller and my extended family always seems to enjoy hearing these 'tales', but it may be time to get serious and put the stories down in written form. I can see this book being very helpful. Thank you.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      I don't have the book, but it looks valuable.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Excellent, informative review of what sounds like an extremely helpful book for writers. Blessed!

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 5 years ago

      What a great idea!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 5 years ago

      Nice to know about this resource.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 5 years ago

      Your Life as a story.This is YOUR book? I'd like to get it some day. I love doing genealogy. My own life is so-so - too many medical issues to write about. I would love to write my family story but I dont have too many anecdotes - my ancestors were just ag-labs and silk factory workers. Nothing special.