Difference Between Memoir and Biography (With Table)

Non-fiction stories about a person’s life can be daunting to write, but it helps if you know which format you want to write in it. There are three major formats, namely, memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. All of them are similar since they tell the story about a person but still have a lot of distinct differences.

Memoir vs Biography

The difference between memoir and biography is that a memoir focuses on the emotional aspect of a person’s life, whereas a biography focuses more on giving historically accurate facts usually presented in chronological order.

A memoir is presented in the form of a collection of memories that are written by the person themselves. It is usually written in the first-person point of view and subjectively. Its scope focuses more on individual and specific events or experiences while giving insight into the person’s personal thoughts.

On the other hand, a biography is a non-fiction story written about someone by another author. They include all accurate facts consisting of the key details that tend to shape the person’s life, like their relationships, education, family, etc. It is written in the third person point of view and objectively.

Comparison Table Between Memoir and Biography

Parameters of ComparisonMemoirBiography
FocusFocuses more on emotions.Focuses more on the facts.
Objective or SubjectiveSubjectiveObjective
PurposeIt is written to explore and retrospect the emotion of the subject’s experiences.It is written to establish a context about one’s life and inform the audience.
InsightGives insight into a person’s personal thoughts, and feelings.It gives restricted insight into the person’s thoughts and feelings.
Point of ViewFirst-personThird-person
ScopeFocuses usually specific aspectsFocuses on a person’s entire timeline.
Presentation of InformationIt presents the information according to the person’s experiences.It presents the information that has been collected from the subject, their family and friends, or other sources.
ExamplesI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouEinstein: The Life and Times by Ronald William Clark

What is Memoir?

A memoir originates from ‘mémoire,’ a French word that means memory or reminiscence. It is written about a person’s life events and experiences by that person themselves.

A memoir tends to focus more on reflecting and exploring the emotions and feelings of the subject during specific events or experiences. They establish an emotional connection with the audience instead of just presenting hard facts.

It is written from the first-person point of view because it is written from the author’s perspective. One defining feature of a memoir is its scope. Memoirs tend to focus on specific aspects or experiences like parenting, childhood, work experience, relationships, etc.

Memoirs are nor informal than biographies and can be read like a novel as it has dialogues, character depictions, etc. Memoirs tether between the fiction and non-fiction genre. They tell a true story about a person, but they also focus on giving an engaging narrative to the audience.

There is no strict structure or timeline that a memoir sticks to. It just focuses more on the emotional and informal side of the events.

Some great examples of memoirs are ‘Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt,’ ‘Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert’, etc.

What is Biography?

A biography is a piece of non-fiction writing work that gives an objective account of a person’s entire life. It will include all the key details about that person like their education, work, relationships, family background, birthplace, etc.

To write a biography, you can use various sources, like letters, diaries, essays, newspapers, interviews, etc. It is usually presented in written form but can potentially be produced in various other formats like films.

A biography will present historically accurate facts about the person’s life along with a multi-faceted picture about their experience. In-depth research is required to make the information as accurate as possible.

Biographies are written in the third person point of view since the author is different than the subjects. The intonation of biography is also more formal and objective.

Even though a biography is technically non-fiction, the author can interpret and analyze the subject’s experiences and actions in their own way and give their own personal view on them. Usually, the events are organized in chronological order, but sometimes the author may organize them based on themes or accomplishments.

Biographies are usually written on famous and notable people who have led interesting or mysterious lives. Some examples of biographies are ‘Churchill: A Life by Matin Gilbert,’ “Sylvia Plath, and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson,” etc.

Main Differences Between Memoir and Biography

  1. The difference between a memoir and a biography is that a memoir tends to focus more on the emotional aspect of life, whereas biographies give more emphasis to the facts.
  2. A memoir is written subjectively, and biography is written objectively.
  3. A memoir’s purpose is to explore and to help the audience in retrospect on the subject’s emotions and feelings about their experiences. A biography’s purpose is to establish a proper timeline and context about one’s entire life.
  4. A memoir gives insight into the subject’s own personal thoughts and feelings about their experiences, whereas a biography gives very little and restricted insight into the person’s personal thoughts and feelings.
  5. A memoir is written in the first-person point of view, and biography is written in the third person.
  6. The scope of a memoir is usually constricted to specific events, whereas the scope of a biography includes the entire timeline of a person’s life.
  7. A memoir tends to present its information according to the person’s own experiences. On the other hand, a biography contains the information that has been collected from the subject itself, their family, friends, acquaintances, or other trusted sources.

Conclusion

 A memoir and a biography are stories about a person’s life. A memoir is written by the subject themselves, whereas a biography is written in the third person. Biographies tend to give accurate facts about a person’s life.

On the other hand, a memoir focuses on the emotional point of view about a person’s life and experiences. It tends to focus on specific events, whereas a biography focuses on the entire timeline of a person’s life.

References

  1. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=DrJrCy3hL-oC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=memoir+and+biography&ots=6flHphUDzD&sig=net6_JmN_LK9yKuxLY2Pc6iE3x4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=memoir%20and%20biography&f=false
  2. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/gc_etds/2477/
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