What Type Of Writing Is Most Similar To An Autobiography?

The field of autobiography is just one aspect of life writing overall. It is also arguably the most accessible for the writer; as it is an account of his or her life story. The authors entire life is generally examined chronologically, though there is nothing to stop the writer jumping around in time as and when, to tell a short story here or there as it seems topical.

Written from a first person point of view, autobiographies focus typically on the author's entire life, unlike memoirs which can be more selective in their focus.

Here, we will go through a few important differences between autobiographies and similar forms of life writing that deal with life stories, be they memoirs, personal essays or even a fictional novel. To answer what type of writing is most similar to an autobiography, we must first be clear on the meaning behind different literary forms.

What is an autobiography?

It may seem redundant to go over what an autobiography is, but it is important to differentiate the autobiography from similar forms.

An autobiography is, at its purist, a factual account of the authors entire life drawn from his or her own memories and told, by and large, chronologically.

It differs from other forms of life writing in that it lacks the traditional storytelling elements such as a central conflict, of, say, a fiction novel. Any elements typically associated with the novelistic form such as intriguing characters or narrative structure arrive naturally, as a result of the facts being presented in a way that eliminates erroneous detail.

After all, an autobiography is still a story; in the same way that we might tell a friend the story of something that happened to us on the way back from work that day, we don't include every detail of the journey home. Rather, we include only the details pertinent to the overall import of the story.

The crafting of autobiography into a compelling story, therefore, lies in knowing what to omit and what to include.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is extremely similar to an autobiography, but aims to take a more tailored, specific view, generally of particular events that the author feels are worthy of exploration. A memoir's focus is more granular. It is still an account of a person's life, however, is more of a vignette, a snapshot of a moment in time, rather than the entire story of a person's life.

Memoirs therefore often emerge out of diaries or journals, such as in the case of 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Annie Ernaux, known for her the searing honesty of her autobiographical work often taken directly from her memoirs.

Memoirs are often more sculpted, gilded accounts of the subject's life, comprising a short story, a snapshot in time of the author's life.

What Is A Personal Essay?

Autobiography and memoir are the two primary, most common types of first-person life writing, with the biography being the most notable non-first-person example. The personal essay is where things become to get a little confusing.

The personal essay is a form that, in a sense, eludes easy definition. A non-fiction but nonetheless creative form, generally characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational tone distinct from the traditional academic essay, the personal essay is a malleable form.

Typically, the personal essay features the writer examining a particular time or even moment from his or her life story. This short story from the authors life will then be explored and elaborated one, perhaps compared to other similar things that have happened to others, usually with the view to expressing something interesting about life generally, to glean insight derived from the event in question.

What is a fictional novel? (and how can it be related to autobiography & other life writing?)

It may be tempting to think of fiction, in particular the novel, as not all that related to an autobiography. Unlike autobiographies, there is no onus on the novel to tell a true story. The process of writing the novel, then, is often quite different from the autobiography. A novel can be more flexible with its perspective and narrative voice, and generally requires a central conflict to hold it together and make it compelling as a whole.

However, the novel can have a surprising amount of similarities both from the writing perspective and the reading perspective to the autobiography. There is nothing to stop a novel from being heavily based on a person's life- the author's life, too- or even almost entirely autobiographical. The novelistic form however allows the writer to mix fact and fiction, to blend and blur lines, at their will.

From Jack Kerouac's On The Road and George Orwell's Down And Out In Paris And London, to James Joyce's A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, there is a rich tradition of writing novels highly or even almost entirely based on the author's real life.

The novel, really, can be almost anything the writer desires it to be and is the most versatile of all of the literary forms.

What Type Of Writing Is Most Similar To An Autobiography?

So, we have now examined the main literary forms that share similarities to the autobiographical form. Of these primary formats, the memoir is the most similar to an autobiography. It shares the first person point of perspective, it is written to be an accurate and truthful depiction of the author's life; the primary difference is that the memoir's focus is more granular and limited to a specific event or at least time period.

However, as our different definitions of the literary forms has shown, there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the different disciplines of life writing and even the fiction novel. The writer actually has a great deal more freedom than they likely imagine.

What type of writing is most similar to an autobiography? Memoir. But, allow yourself to blend different categories if that is what you want. There is so much overall, ripe for formal and literary exploration.

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