The questions below will open a portal to your memories.
Read through the questions and think about the ones you’d like to focus on in your memoir.
As we begin to write your story, we can always go back and update scenes and scenarios. We can start with a linear approach then rearrange the content to make it a more compelling read with flashback or flashforward scenes.
Memoir or Autobiography? You decide.
An autobiography focuses on facts and dates and is an account of a person’s life, written by that person or in this case, written on your behalf by a ghost writer. A memoir is a special type of autobiography in which the person writes about a specific part of their life. Memoirs tend to be more introspective, focusing on events, lessons learned and people in your life. A memoir usually has a theme – Here’s a list to help you zero-in the theme of your memoir. But don’t be discouraged if the theme is not obvious when we start. Usually a theme materializes and you remember pivotal moments.[In a memoir you write what you remember. Don’t be surprised if your sibling or friend remembers differently. For example, I remember the ka-thump-ah, ka-thump-ah of my brother playing basketball when we lived on Platts Road but my brother insists that we had a gravel drive on Platts Road and it was our house on Bass Road where we had a basketball hoop. When you’re writing about your thoughts and feelings about life with your brother, does it matter where the ka-thump-ah happened? Probably not. Remember, this is a private memoir, not meant for the public.]
Read through the questions below, then think about the answers you’d like to focus on in your book.
CHILDHOOD AND GROWING UP
- When and where were you born?
- What is your earliest memory?
- Was there anything unusual about your birth?
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- What were your early passions or dreams?
- Did you pursue them?
- Do you remember your first day of school?
- Was learning to read and write easy or difficult for you?
- Who was your favorite teacher? Your least favorite teacher?
- What were your best subjects? Worst? Why?
- Did you play any sports or instruments? Band member? Drama club?
- Were you part of a clique or group at school?
- Describe your social life at school.
- What is your happiest childhood memory? Your saddest?
- What is your saddest or most painful childhood memory?
- What were your favorite toys, books, TV shows? Which character(s) did you want to be?
- What shows or movies influenced you most during your childhood?
- Who or what did you want to be when you grew up?
- What were your favorite books to read, and how did they influence you?
- Who was your favorite teacher in elementary school, and why?
- What were your biggest learning challenges in school (academic or social)?
- What was your favorite subject in school, and what did you love about it?
- What do you wish you would have learned more about growing up?
- What did you learn about yourself in high school?
- What was your biggest mistake in school?
- What do you remember most about your high school graduation? Did it matter?
- How old were you when you first moved away from home?
- How is your family unique? What makes you proudest (ashamed) when you think about them?
- What is your best memory from your teenage years? And your worst?
- What was the wildest party you attended in high school or college?
- What plans for the future did you have at that time?
- What did you imagine ‘the future’ would be like? How was it different from our world today?
- What were you passionate about when you were in your teens and early twenties? Still?
- Are there things you wish you would have done differently?
- How would you describe the social and cultural atmosphere in the time and place you were born?
- How was the culture “in your day” different from today?
- Has education been an important aspect of your life? In what ways?
- What did you learn in college that has had a powerful influence on you?
- What did your education have to do with your career?
- How many siblings do you have?
- How did being an only child impact your childhood/life? if applicable
- Did you and your siblings get along well as children? And later?
- How did your siblings influence your life?
- What is your mother’s background? Father’s background?
- What was your mother’s career?
- What was your father’s career?
- How did your mother’s/father’s career impact your life?
- Which of your parents are you most like, and in what ways?
- What sort of relationship did you have with your parents?
- Which parent were you closest to growing up? Why?
- In what ways do you consider your parents to have been good or bad parents?
- How did they show their love for you?
- What parent or parental figure had the biggest influence on you growing up?
- What words of theirs from your childhood do you remember most, and why?
- Were your parents together, or did they live apart? Did they get along?
- What do you remember most about your parents’ relationship?
- How has your relationship with your parents affected your own love relationships?
- Describe a memorable argument you had with one of your parents? How did it end?
- Have you lost a parent? How did it happen, and how did their death affect you?
- How has your family’s financial situation growing up influenced you?
- What seemed normal to you growing up that now strikes you as dysfunctional?
- If you were abused, do you want to write about it?
RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY
- Describe your spiritual journey from adolescence to the present?
- If you grew up in a religious household, how did you see “God”?
- How did you think “God” saw you? Who influenced those beliefs?
- Has religion shaped your life, and in what way(s)?
LOVE AND RELATIONSHIPS
- When did you first start dating?
- Who gave you your first kiss? And what do you remember most about it?
- Who was your first crush? How long did it last?
- Who was your first real love? What do you remember most about them?
- At what moment in your life did you feel most loved?
- At what moment in your life did you feel most alone?
- Do you have a lost love? If yes, describe them, how you met, and how you lost them.
- When did you first fall in love? And what happened?
- What was your most romantic experience?
- What first attracted you?
- When did you meet your husband / wife / partner (if applicable)?
- What was your early relationship like?
- Do you have a ‘love who got away’?
- How did your marriage, or long-term relationship, change your life?
- What was the impact of your divorce on your life? Children’s lives? If applicable
- Did your relationship influence your career?
- Impact of single mom, single dad, shared custody on your career?
- Was there ever a time in your life when you realized you weren’t straight?
- Have you ever dealt with the loss of a loved one? Do you want to write about those feelings?
- What was your first real job?
- How old were you when you got your first job?
- What do you remember most about it?
- How much did your first job pay?
- How did you spend the money you earned on your first job?
- Did you have a big career break? Explain if applicable
- What was your working life like?
- Did you get along with your colleagues?
- Have you ever had a big disagreement with your boss?
- Have you ever been fired? Why?
- What do you count as your primary career successes?
- Has your chosen career made you happy?
- How did your career impact your family?
- Did you have more than one career over the years?
- Do you have any career specific issues/accomplishments?
- How did being a “housewife” impact your self-esteem? If applicable
CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN
- If you have children, whom did you trust with them when they were babies?
- What was it like being a mother or father when your children were young? How was it different from today?
- Did you always want to have children?
- What did becoming a parent mean to you?
- What did becoming a grandparent mean to you?
- What are your favorite memories from when your children were young?
- What are your favorite memories of family life?
- Who was your first best friend?
- How did you become friends?
- Did your best friend influence your future life?
- How did other friends influence your life?
- Describe someone from your past whom you’d love to see again. (Living or not)
- Did you have a close friend or group of friends after you left school?
- Did you have pets growing up? Why, or why not?
- Did you feel close or attached to any of your pets?
- Were pets/animals important in your life over the years?
- How have your pets changed you?
BELIEFS AND VALUES
- What would you want your great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren to know about you?
- How have your beliefs changed over the years?
- What do you no longer believe that you did believe as a child or teenager?
- When have you alienated people by being vocal about your beliefs?
- Are you as vocal about your beliefs as you were when you were younger?
- Are you haunted by the consequences of abandoned beliefs?
- Did you ever join a protest for a cause you believed in? Would you do it again?
- Are there any pivotal experiences that led to your maturity as a person?
- Have you made any decisions that significantly changed your life?
- Are there any philosophers, writers or thinkers whose ideas significantly shaped your thinking?
- Have your politics changed over the course of your life?
- Which politicians have you admired?
- What sacrifices have you made in your life and why?
- Do you have any mottos or guiding principles that you live by?
- Do you feel as though you have made a positive difference in the world? How?
- If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be?
- Who has had the greatest impact on your life?
- Do you have any regrets?
- What has been the most significant challenge of your life?
- How did you cope with challenges?
- What did you learn from dealing with challenges?
- What advice would you give to your eighteen-year-old self?
- Have you travelled a lot?
- What are some of your favorite places? Why?
- What place would you most like to return to? Why?
- Where have you been that changed your life? How?
- Where haven’t you been that you’d like to go? Why?
- Who was the first person who considered you worth standing up for?
- In what ways do you feel successful in life? Or how have you failed?
- What were your long-term goals? Achieved? Not achieved?
- What is something you learned later in life that you wish you’d learned as a child?
- How do you want others to see you? What words come to mind?
- Describe a moment when you made a fool of yourself and what it cost you.
- What’s something you’ve done that you never thought you would do?
- What comes to mind if someone asks you what you’re good at? Why does it matter?
- How has someone’s harsh criticism of you led you to an important realization? Or Motivation?
- Do you consider yourself a “good person”? Why or why not?
- How has technology shaped your life for the past 10 years?
- What do your pet peeves reveal about you?
- If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be?
- Are there any books, films, music that are enduring favorites, and why?
- What foods do you like and dislike? What do they reveal about you?
- Do clothes matter to you?
- Do you collect any particular items?