PDA

View Full Version : autobiography versus memoirs



MrAngelwithnowings
08-18-2004, 12:59 AM
What is the difference between autobiography and memoirs?

aka eraser
08-18-2004, 04:44 AM
Can't say I know of an official difference but my interpretation is an autobio covers the whole of the author's life while a memoir might be just a segment of that life.

veingloree
08-18-2004, 04:58 PM
My instinct is that memoirs are more outward looking and anecdotal.

mammamaia
08-19-2004, 01:34 AM
autobios are focused on the entire life of the authors, from birth on... a memoir features anecdotes about people they've known and places they've been... a collection of vignettes, not just a chronological account... fyi, david niven's [see below] are among the best memoirs ever written!

"Bring on the Empty Horses"
"The Moon's a Balloon"
"Go Slowly, Come Back Quickly"

MrAngelwithnowings
08-19-2004, 01:38 AM
I think my ms fits more on the line of autobio then..

thanks all

:hug

BardSkye
05-17-2006, 10:13 PM
This thread is a year old but when I happened upon it, it came so close to answering my question it just wasn't worth opening a new thread.

The question: I've done a manuscript of about 46000 words dealing with the life of a Canadian heroin kingpin (retired). It deals briefly with his formative years in Communist Czechoslovakia then follows him through emigration, career, ensuing jail time and since.

I've written it in first person as the words and memories are his, the style and vocabulary are mine, and the story just wouldn't tell itself in third person.

My field is usually fantasy rather than life stories so I'm wondering if this would qualify as a memoir, biography or autobiography?

Sassenach
05-17-2006, 10:29 PM
Usually bio covers an entire life. Memoir covers a portion of a life. Yours is a memoir.

Aconite
05-18-2006, 02:02 AM
BardSkye, a very basic question: Is the story true? That is, is this person real, and did the experiences happen to him as you wrote them?

Now, assuming the answer to the above is yes, how many years are covered by the account? Does the account cover all aspects of his life, or focus on the drug-dealing parts and their aftermath? If he's elderly now, and the account covers all aspects of his life, I'd say you may well have a biography. If he's still relatively young, or if the account is more limited, probably it's a memoir.

The difference between biography and autobiography gets slippery. Are you working intimately with this person, basically as a ghostwriter? Who will be listed as the author of the book?

BardSkye
05-18-2006, 09:13 AM
BardSkye, a very basic question: Is the story true? That is, is this person real, and did the experiences happen to him as you wrote them?

He's real and just as recalcitrant as ever. His name is Rudy Chroust and he was known to the police as The Russian Snake, despite being Czechoslovakian.


how many years are covered by the account? Does the account cover all aspects of his life, or focus on the drug-dealing parts and their aftermath?

The account goes from childhood to present, and he's now in his sixties. It's more anecdotal (sp?) than dry repetition of fact: he basically told me things like coming home one day to find his dogs had torn apart a bag of money and were tossing bills around the yard like confetti.


The difference between biography and autobiography gets slippery. Are you working intimately with this person, basically as a ghostwriter? Who will be listed as the author of the book?

I started off simply agreeing to ghost it for him; I expected to be bored silly and did I really want a close association with a heroin dealer? Even a retired one? Besides, it's not my field; I write fantasy.

But he fed me Vietnamese soup on a weekly basis (I love Vietnamese soup: it was "an offer I couldn't refuse") and I started getting really interested in the story as it unfolded. He's a good storyteller and a funny conversationalist. He's unabashedly open about his past with some often very funny results in the now.

As far as credits go, he wants both names on it. I don't know enough about the field to know whether "by X and X" works better than "by X as told to X." He did insist on copyrighting it under both names.

He would like publication (as would we all) and I'm willing to try for him, but I really should try for the publishers or agents that would suit this story... ergo the question of whether it qualifies as autobiography, biography or memoir. That at least would give me a starting point.

Aconite
05-18-2006, 11:41 PM
Okay, then, here's my (completely non-expert) take: You've got a biography/autobiography. I can't see any agent or publisher who deals in one not also dealing in the other, so I wouldn't sweat that part of it. If this man has a recognizable name--being nicknamed by the police would, I think, be one of the signs that he does--then the book may be better marketed as "by X as told to Y" than "by X and Y," since the guy's got more name recognition than you and since your experiences aren't part of the story. That would argue for listing it as autobiography, but I'd say let your agent and publisher work out how to label it. They know marketing.

Vietnamese soup. Dang, but he knows how to find the weak spots, eh?

BardSkye
05-19-2006, 06:31 AM
Vietnamese soup. Dang, but he knows how to find the weak spots, eh?

I think that kind of goes with the territory...

Many thanks. Those were my thoughts as well but I thought I would ask those who probably know more about it than I do.

rchroust
08-26-2009, 10:26 AM
This thread is a year old but when I happened upon it, it came so close to answering my question it just wasn't worth opening a new thread.

The question: I've done a manuscript of about 46000 words dealing with the life of a Canadian heroin kingpin (retired). It deals briefly with his formative years in Communist Czechoslovakia then follows him through emigration, career, ensuing jail time and since.

I've written it in first person as the words and memories are his, the style and vocabulary are mine, and the story just wouldn't tell itself in third person.

My field is usually fantasy rather than life stories so I'm wondering if this would qualify as a memoir, biography or autobiography?
This is his son,Id like to read what you have written