Autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs are all literary forms with different purposes and audiences. But what exactly are the differences between these three genres?
One can write an autobiography, a biography, or a memoir for a variety of reasons and target audiences. As a result, these genres have different goals and writing styles. Reading one of these types of books can be enlightening and will often offer very different experiences. The same can be said for the process of writing them; each will require a unique style, influence, and format. This article will be going through the difference between biography and autobiography and memoir to help you make the right decision for your next project.
If you’ve ever wondered what does biography mean, read on. Biography publications are often written in the first person and are largely used to tell the story of an important person in history. These books are often written by the subject’s former friends, colleagues, or family members to reveal the story behind their life and times.
Biographies can be either biography collections or single-author biographies. A biography collection is a compilation of biographies written by a wide range of authors unified by a single shared subject. These collections typically have different authors covering the same person, event, or time in history, but with small differences in their descriptions.
A single-author biography, on the other hand, is written by one person and focuses on offering one easily-digestible narrative, rather than a range of unique perspectives. When thinking about what is included in a biography, the answer is usually an assortment of notable events, relationships, and achievements.
Autobiographies are first-person accounts written from one person’s perspective. These books are written by a person to share details of their lives, their accomplishments, and their failures. If you’re wondering “what is an autobiography?” the easy answer is that it’s a biography written by the subject themselves.
Depending on the subject’s life, the contents of these books can vary. If the writer is a famous actor, it may focus on their first roles, their accomplishments, or the lavish life they live. Meanwhile, if the writer is a politician, it may focus more on the effects they’ve observed their life having on the world around them.
The purpose of an autobiography is to share the writer’s perspective, ultimately. This can often prove inspiring, comedic, or thought-provoking.
Memoirs are essays and stories which are, much like autobiographies, written from one person’s perspective. Similarly to autobiographies, these are traditionally first-person accounts of an individual’s life.
Where memoirs and autobiographies differ is that memoirs tend to focus on a specific moment in an individual’s life or a thematic through-line that unites much of their life. In autobiographies, the focus is placed more on recounting an entire life in a complete and meaningful way. Memoirs, on the other hand, focus on picking out moments of narrative significance.
What makes the three different?
These genres have many similarities, but they differ in some key ways, too. Let’s take a closer look at how these differences affect the books themselves.
Autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs are all centered on a person’s life. However, the stories in memoirs and autobiographies differ from those in biographies.
Autobiographies and memoirs are usually more personal and less objective than standard biographical accounts. Biographical stories usually cover a broader period of time and put a greater emphasis on factual truth.
In general, biographical books can tend to appeal to a demographic more interested in the facts of a person’s life than their emotional internal world. Biographies can also be very useful for academic research and documentation.
Autobiographies, if written by famous personalities, can attract a very broad demographic of casual readers with ease. Due to the higher level of abstraction introduced by the typical memoir author, these can often attract more avid readers who are more likely to appreciate the artistry of the form.
Subjectivity vs. Objectivity: memoir vs. autobiography
Biographical books are usually considered objective accounts of a person’s life, while memoirs and autobiographies are often seen as subjective accounts. While there is a grey area between these genres, this is an easy starting point when considering the veracity of any given novel.
Also Read This: 5 Best Methods to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Writing
Biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs all tell stories of the past. Each type has its own unique purpose, audience, and writing style. Depending on the sort of reading experience you’re after, each has its own unique merits and downfalls. By keeping these key differences in mind, you can make sure that you’re making the right decision the next time you pick up a book (or decide to start writing one yourself!).