What is a Memoir? A Brief Guide and 50+ Memoir Ideas for Middle School, High School, and Beyond
We all have valuable experiences to share—and writing a memoir is a thrilling, creative, and therapeutic way to do so.
Many writers are intimidated by the prospect of starting a memoir because they mistakenly believe that a memoir needs to be long and profound. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
A memoir can focus on any topic and can be as long or as short as you want it to be. The goal is simply to share from your own life and to consider what you or others may be able to learn from that experience. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some memoir ideas and writing prompts to help you get started.
Use these memoir topics for middle school and memoir topics for high school in your classroom to help your students learn how to start a memoir—or try one of our memoir ideas for all ages to shape your own story so that you may share it with others!
12 Memoir Topics for Middle School
- Write about a childhood toy or hobby that had a big impact on your life.
- What was your proudest moment ever? Write about what led up to the moment and what aspects of your experience made you feel pride.
- What is your favorite family tradition? Where did it originate? How does your family celebrate it today?
- Write about one of the first friends you ever made. How did the two of you meet? What made you become friends?
- What was the best field trip you ever went on? What kinds of things did you get to do?
- Write about a time when one of your parents taught you something new.
- Write about a day in your life that you wish you could live all over again. What made it so special?
- Write about the first time you felt like “a big kid.”
- Write about something that you struggled to learn at first. What approaches did you take in learning? Did anyone help you?
- Who is the most interesting person in your family? What is your relationship with him or her like? What have you learned from this person?
- What is the toughest challenge you’ve ever faced? Did you do anything to prepare for it? How did you handle it—and what was the outcome?
- Write about a time when you helped someone. What did they need? Did you receive anything in return?
29 Memoir Topics for High School
- What is something you wish adults understood about teens your age? Write about a memory that illustrates your point.
- Write about your bedroom. What could someone learn about you by examining the contents of your room?
- Write about a time when you were afraid of what would happen next.
- What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far?
- Write about your first day of high school. What feelings did you experience? Was it much like you expected?
- Write about a local, national, or global news event that has had an emotional or personal impact on you.
- What is something that you believe strongly? Write about your belief and choose an event from your life to explain why it matters to you.
- Write about a time when you didn’t do something that you really wanted to do. Was it the right or wrong choice?
- Write about a time when you felt truly loved by someone else.
- What is the greatest struggle you have with your parents? Describe how you have clashed and the challenges you face.
- Write about a time when you learned something about yourself.
- Write about your first crush. What drew you to him or her? How did being around that person make you feel?
- What is the best part of your life right now? Write about how that thing brings you happiness, confidence, fulfillment, or some other positive feeling.
- Write about a scar you have (either a physical or emotional scar). Where did you get it? How often do you think of it?
- Write about something that bothers you—and reflect on why it upsets or annoys you.
- Discuss a book or TV show that has had an influence on your life. What did you learn or gain from its presence in your life? Is there a character you particularly relate with?
- Write about a time when you saw someone in a new light.
- What is the best gift you ever received?
- Write about your favorite memory you share with your grandparents.
- What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever experienced that didn’t happen in your hometown?
- Write about a thought, feeling, or idea that you’ve never discussed with anyone else.
- What is your favorite season? Discuss your best memories from this time and explain why you like this season using vivid sense imagery.
- Write about a time when you felt trapped—physically, emotionally, or metaphorically.
- Think of a mundane household object that represents a part of you. Write about how this object is a metaphor for your personality or your life.
- Write about a significant experience you had outside. Include plenty of sensory details to set the scene.
- Write about a time when you failed at something.
- What is the most memorable birthday celebration you’ve ever had? What made that day so special?
- Write about a time when you took a big risk. Would you make the same decision today? Why or why not?
- Tell a story from your life that illustrates your greatest strength.
15 More Memoir Ideas for All Ages
- Write about something that triggers a strong sense memory for you. Is there a smell or taste that takes you back to a time in your past? How does it make you feel, and what does it remind you of? Describe the memories as vividly as possible.
- Write about the very first job you ever had. Did you enjoy it? How did it prepare you for future work?
- Write about a time when you saw someone from your past after a long time. How had they changed? How had you changed?
- What is the biggest piece of news you ever received in your life? How did you react to it? What kind of impact did it have on your life?
- Write about the most influential person in your life. Where did the two of you meet? How has this person shaped you?
- Write about an article of clothing you own that has a strong memory associated with it.
- Write about something that used to be a major part of your life that isn’t any longer.
- Who was your favorite teacher when you were younger? What made his or her class so special?
- Write about the best party you ever went to. Use vivid imagery to set the scene.
- If you could go back and change any one decision in your life, what would it be? How would that change impact the rest of your life today?
- Write about the happiest day of your life.
- Write about an aspect of your family history that you’ve always wondered about. Is there anywhere you may be able to get the answers, or is it a mystery bound by time or secrecy?
- What is the best—or worst—luck you’ve ever had?
- Write about something that you do every day. Why is this activity a part of your daily routine? What does its inclusion in your life say about you?
- Write about a time when you decided to make a change in your life. What led you to this decision? How did the change impact the way you looked at yourself afterward?
What is a Memoir? Five Tips and Tricks to Get You Started
Before beginning a memoir, it’s important to make sure you know what exactly you’re writing! So, what is a memoir anyway?
Here’s what you should know: memoirs are a very special form of creative nonfiction writing. They tend to read like a novel or a short story, but they’re based in facts and memories from the writer’s personal experiences.
Unlike autobiographies, memoirs typically focus on a particular event or theme rather than detailing years and years of the writer’s life. In many ways, this narrowed focus is what makes the genre unique. Truly, anyone can write a memoir—you don’t need to be famous or have done something extraordinary, you simply need to be able to tell a story and draw meaning from something that has happened in your own life.
Memoirs typically contain two key aspects: the truth of what happened, and the truth of what it meant. Great memoirists mine their lives for material that illustrates common experiences that others can relate to—and then they reflect and process their stories on the page for others to share.
Now that you have a better understanding of what a memoir is, let’s look at a few tips and ideas to guide your writing as you learn how to start a memoir!
Memoir Ideas #1: Reflect on your clearest memories. Our strongest memories are often our most significant. Even if a particular memory seems unimportant, if you keep coming back to it, it’s likely there’s something meaningful there.
Memoir Ideas #2: Write vividly. Writing that is strongly grounded in imagery and sensory details will engage readers right away. Additionally, many writers find that putting themselves in the headspace of vivid details that stick out is a great way to recall more of what happened.
Memoir Ideas #3: Be creative in the service of emotional truth. A memoir should always be true, but you don’t necessarily have to tell your story strictly in the exact way it happened. Feel free to play around with things like time or perspective (as you would in a novel) to gently shape or heighten the emotional truth of your story.
Memoir Ideas #4: Make it universal. Great memoirs tell stories that are simultaneously uniquely personal and widely relatable. Let the individual details that make your story your own shine through—while also giving your readers an access point to connect through their own experiences.
Memoir Ideas #5: Show some growth. You are the star of your memoir, but that doesn’t make you infallible. Strive to be bold and truthful and don’t be afraid to talk about the times when you made mistakes. As you reflect, the perspective you’ve gained and the distance you can apply to your writing can show readers how you’ve evolved and grown over time.
Related Links & Resources
Whether you’re looking to start a memoir or simply do some personal narrative journaling, we hope these memoir ideas will help you begin! Nothing is off-limits when it comes to writing a memoir—the key is simply to draw meaning from the stories of your own life.
Until next time, write on…
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