A memoir writing prompt is a question or set of questions designed to guide an author in writing their memoir. Memoirs are non-fiction books usually written by one person, about his/her life. They are written in the third person (“he”/”she”) but are told from that person’s point of view looking back on their life. It can range between 30,000 to 100,000 words, depending on the kind of material being covered and how much space it takes up.
Memoirs generally include personal history, family background information, key events throughout an individual’s life leading them up to where they currently are today. The actual writing of a memoir is not always chronological; some elements may be written before others even though they happened after them. Some memoirs end up with their author at old age, others do not.
Memoirs are usually written because the author has something to share; lessons they’ve learned throughout their life that could benefit or inspire other people. While money is not always a main motivating factor for writing a memoir (most authors receive no royalties), the satisfaction of sharing one’s story and hopefully connecting with readers who can relate to it makes it worth it.
There are many types of memoirs; anyone could write about his/her experiences as long as they have something interesting to say. The following are just some examples:
- Drug addiction/recovery
- Child abuse/childhood hardship
- Experiences in war
- Interpersonal relationships (parents, siblings, spouses, friends)
- Growing up in a foreign country
- An unconventional childhood
- Loss of a loved one/grief and recovery from it
Memoir writing prompts are questions that help guide someone when they begin thinking about their own memoir. Without prompts to get them started, an individual may struggle to find the exact angle he/she wants to use in order to tell their story in a way that keeps readers interested until it is finished. Prompts not only help them flesh out ideas but also formulate sentences and paragraphs.
Here are 75 of the best memoir Writing Prompts.
1) Write an essay about a time in your life when you felt lost.
2) Write a short story of a time in your life when you leaned on someone else for help.
3) Write down everything you know about your family history from the very beginning.
4) Imagine that you are writing a letter to the person who has been the biggest inspiration in your life. How would you describe them? What makes them so special?
5) Write about a time in your life when you went with the flow and didn’t question it too much.
6) Remember something embarrassing that happened to you, but it’s OK if others already know about it—what matters is how YOU feel about it.
7) Think of three words or phrases people use to describe you. Now, think of three words or phrases that you feel best describe you.
8) Your memoir is about a time when people thought something bad was going to happen and they were completely wrong! What happened?
9) Write down your earliest memory; make sure it’s not too fuzzy and doesn’t include any major life events (like the birth of a sibling, etc.), because we want this to be just about YOU.
10) What is one thing that everyone in your family does that really irritates or annoys you? How do they react when you let them know how it makes you feel?
11) If there’s one person in your family who can always cheer up someone else in the family, even when no one else can, who is that person and why do they have such a “special power”?
12) Describe a time in your life when you were truly uncomfortable. What happened?
13) Think about what’s been going on throughout your life for the past month or so. Write it all down. Now go back to the beginning of that same period of time and write it all down again but from a different point of view, with a completely different perspective—as if you had only just found out about everything that’s been going on.
14) Think about something really embarrassing that has happened to you more than once in your lifetime. How have you dealt with these instances, and how did others help you?
15) Write about a time in your life when something felt familiar, like deja vu.
16) Think of the most popular game you played as a child; write about it and why people played it.
17) Describe three different apartments or houses that you’ve lived in throughout your life—not necessarily nice ones but just any kind of living space that was your own at one point.
18) Make up an old family recipe for dinner. What’s in it? What is its origin? Did anyone teach you how to cook it or did you learn on your own? How does this dish make you feel whenever you eat it/think about eating it again?
19) Write about an instance when you were uprooted from your home.
20) Think of a person who always seems to have it together, in both big and little ways. Do you ever ask them for advice? What are some things that person would say/do if he/she knew about this memoir project? Now, write about the last time you saw that person and everything that was going on in your life at the time: how did they react?
21) Think about the members of your family and rank them (1st place, 2nd place, etc.). Why did you choose these specific people? How do they make you feel whenever you spend time with them or think about spending time with them again in the future?
22) Think about all the places you have lived in throughout your life. Write them down in order or rank them, starting with your present location. How has every place made you feel? Why did you choose to live in each one?
23) Pretend that someone else is writing a memoir about you—what would they want people to know about how the two of you are alike and also what sets you apart from everyone else?
24) Talk about an instance where something was entirely out of your control. What happened?
25) Write about a time when something really unexpected happened. How did it change things for your family or friends or anyone else who was involved in whatever transpired?
26) Think back on all the people you’ve met throughout your life. What did you like most about them? How did they make you feel?
27) Think of all the birthdays that were celebrated in your family growing up (your own included). Did anyone ever get more presents than anyone else, or was it always equal? Who gave out the birthday parties and why did they do it this way?
28) Which person in your family would be the best person to give advice about almost any major life decision someone could make if he/she had all the facts surrounding said decision beforehand? Describe him/her.
29) What’s one thing that never fails to cheer you up when you’re feeling down in the dumps?
30) Write about a time that you were excluded from something or someone.
31) Think about your first big fight with one of your siblings and how it all got started.
32) Write about a time when you had to be more responsible than usual (for example, taking care of younger siblings while your parents were away).
33) Make up some family trivia: for example, what’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to one of your relatives? What is his/her worst habit? What makes him/her happiest in life and why?
34) Think about an instance where everything seemed “right” or at least OK; things were calm and relaxed. Describe that moment as best as you—how did it make you feel?
35) Think about the worst day of your life. What was going on that day, or what happened leading up to it?
36) All great memories come from somewhere—write down all the places, good and bad, that you’ve lived in throughout your life. How have they helped shape who you are today?
37) Make a list of all the things you wish you’d done differently growing up—not necessarily big ones but little ones too. Why is this list so important to you?
38) Write about a time when everything seemed perfect for a specific reason (for example, maybe something happened at school/work that made everyone happy). Everything just seemed to fit into place. What would keep that feeling going?
39) Think about an important discussion (or series of discussions) that took place in your family growing up. What was the topic? How did that affect everyone’s feelings or relationship with one another moving forward?
40) Write about a time when you were faced with the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make (remember, it doesn’t have to be related to something big like deciding whether or not you should leave home for college). Why was this so difficult for you and what ended up happening as a result of it all?
41) If someone asked your parents what is most important to them about their life together right now, what would they say is most important to them? Would they mention anything in particular about you, their child?
42) What is your biggest regret? If you could go back to a time in the past when you still had this regret but knew what you know now, would there be anything that you would change about how it all went down and unfolded? Why or why not?
43) How did growing up influence your dreams at night and what did they mean to you moving forward into adulthood?
44) Think of all the people who’ve come into and out of your life over the years. Have any of them truly made an impact on who you are today—positively or negatively? How so? What’s one thing that they taught you along the way (whether by example or through words)? Why is this important to you?
45) Describe all the places that you’ve lived. What were some of your favorite places to visit as a child? Why did you like visiting them so much and what was it about those locations that made you feel this way? (Note: if you haven’t lived in many different places, write about one location or one trip instead.)
46) Think back on the past five years of your life. How has this changed how you see yourself now compared with before? What memories do you have from this period of time and specifically, why are they sticking out more than others right now?
47) If someone asked your parents what is most important for them in their relationship with one another right now, what do you think they would say? Why is this important to them right now?
48) Who has been the most influential person in your life so far—and why? What has this person taught you, if anything?
49) Imagine that you are meeting with a group of new people for the first time. Describe each one of these people as best as you can (how they look, what their interests are, what they’re passionate about). Now imagine that at least one of these people ends up being part of your life moving forward. What do you think will happen between the two of you now that you’ve met each other and now know each other’s personalities, interests, etc.?
50) Is there anything special or unique about the place where you grew up? What makes it special—and why is this important to you?
51) How have your past experiences made you who you are today?
52) Think back on all of your high school or college memories. Which ones stand out the most right now, and why do they stand out in your mind more than others? What did you learn from each of these memories that helped shape how you see yourself now compared with before everything happened?
53) Write about a time when something happened that changed everything for some reason (like an argument, someone moving away, etc.)…but instead of trying to make sense of what happened, focus on how it felt afterward. Why did things happen the way that they did? What was the aftermath like in terms of how it changed this person’s life and day-to-day routine and how it made them feel about certain things in life in general?
54) If someone were to ask your parents what is most important for them right now, what would you want their response to be? Why is this important to you?
55) Think back on all of your favorite memories from over the years. How has this changed how you see yourself now compared with before? What do these memories mean for who you are today and why is this so special to you when you look back at everything that happened long ago when compared with something that happens today?
56) Choose a season (winter, spring, summer, or fall) and write about why this season is important to you. For example: maybe you like spring because it’s your birthday, or fall because it’s the beginning of a new school year…or winter because of Christmas Eve traditions with family and friends.
57) Think back on all of your favorite memories from over the years. How has this changed who you are now compared with before? What do these memories mean for who you are today and why is this so special to you when you look back at everything that happened long ago compared with something that happens today?
58) Is there anything particularly special about where you’re from? Why is it important to be from here—and even if not, what makes your hometown special to you and why?
59) Is there anything special or unique about the place where you live right now? What makes it stand out compared with other places you could be living instead, and why is this important to you that things are the way they are right now?
60) How have your past experiences made you who you are today?
61) If someone were to ask your parents what’s most important for them in their relationship with one another right now, what would they say? Why is this especially important to them at this point in time when asked directly about it rather than how it can be inferred from some of their actions or certain conversations they’ve had together recently?
62) Is there anything particularly special about where you’re from? Why is it important to be from here—and even if not, what makes your hometown special to you and why?
63) Think back on all of your favorite memories from over the years. How has this changed who you are now compared with before? What do these memories mean for who you are today and why is this so special when you look back at everything that happened long ago when compared with something that happens today or is happening right now in the present moment?
64) Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. No matter how hard we try, certain things happen anyway. Write about an instance where this seems especially true…perhaps one where it feels like nothing was done about what had happened despite everyone’s best efforts or maybe something that was avoided but continues to have repercussions in the present.
65) Is there anything particularly special about where you’re from? Why is it important to be from here—and even if not, what makes your hometown special to you and why?
66) Write a letter of advice to a current version of yourself. What’s one thing they should know right now when going through difficulty or hardship?
67) Describe a situation in your life when something happened that changed everything for some reason (like an argument, someone moving away, etc.)…but instead of trying to make sense of what happened, focus on how it felt afterward. Why did things happen the way that they did? What was the result when all was said and done? Why does this story matter to you when compared with other stories in your life?
68) Sometimes we want something that someone else also wants, and then we end up in a conflict over it. Or maybe there’s something that one of us doesn’t like or is made uncomfortable by—and the other person doesn’t care about it at all! Write about a conflict like this in your life with another person. How did things turn out, and what would you do differently if you could go back in time knowing what you know now after the fact?
69) Think back on all of your favorite memories from over the years. How has this changed who you are now compared with before? What do these memories mean for who you are today and why is this so special to you when you look back at everything that happened long ago compared with something that happens today?
70) Sometimes it’s hard to know what path we should take in life. When faced with a big decision, how do we make a choice about what’s right if everyone else seems to have their own opinions as well? How can we be sure that making our own choice instead of just going along with someone else will benefit us in the long run rather than having an outcome that feels negative or disappointing in some way?
71) Describe a situation in your life where there was a conflict and what happened as a result. How did it feel when this was happening? What were the various ways to resolve the conflict before everything started to turn out badly?
72) Think back on all of your favorite memories from over the years. How has this changed who you are now compared with before? What do these memories mean for who you are today and why is this so special when you look back at everything that happened long ago when compared with something that is happening right now in the present moment?
73) Sometimes being kind is taken advantage of or misinterpreted by others, resulting in feelings of negativity or resentment toward someone else. Write about an experience like this—perhaps one where they’re being overly kind to the point where you want to just say, “Stop!” Why is it so important that they truly understand what being kind means?
74) When is a time you were glad that you trusted your instincts and when have those instincts been wrong? What was going on in your life at the time—and how might things have turned out differently if you hadn’t listened to your gut feeling about something or someone?
What do these memories mean for who you are now compared with before?
75) Think of all of the people who have come into your life. In most cases, the most meaningful interactions seem to be those that develop slowly. What would need to happen for this type of meeting to occur here?
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.