Memoir Idea List


How to write your own memoir: By Abigail Thomas

Make Me Worry You’re Not O.K.: By SUSAN SHAPIRO



(Also good for college essays)


Tell a story about . . .


  • an object that is special to you or your family
  • what is in a storage unit, closet, drawer, garage, or special box
  • a time you did something forbidden
  • a time someone let you down
  • a time someone unexpectedly came through for you
  • an encounter with a stranger (planes, buses, park benches . . . )
  • something you have lost (objects, friends, an old idea, your innocence)
  • a time someone broke a stereotype for you
  • an important relationship
  • the day everything changed
  • someone who was a true teacher for you
  • a time you were in conflict with someone
  • a time you escaped
  • a particular piece of clothing
  • being outside a night
  • trying to fix something
  • how you are different from most people
  • a death
  • an historical event that touched your family
  • a gift given or received
  • the day you were no longer a child
  • an opportunity you missed
  • secrets
  • what you didn’t want to know
  • where home is for you
  • something you know by heart
  • losing your temper
  • finding home
  • a change (school, country, opinion, historical events, hair style, personality, etc.)
  • apologizing or not apologizing
  • something missing


We have already talked about writing . . .


  • classic family or friend moments
  • important family of friend moments
  • traumatic family or friend moments
  • moments in which you had to make a choice
  • confessions
  • a lie you told or was told to you
  • history of your hair
  • history of your scars


Visit your old journal entries . . .

  • 7 minute autobiography
  • Chapter titles
  • Place maps
  • Body maps


Other activities:

  • Begin your story with “The first time I saw . . . “
  • Begin your story with “The last time I saw . . . “
  • Graph the ten most important moments of your life. Write about one of them.


Shame is a terrible feeling, but a great source for stories!

Think about a time you did one of the following; observed someone doing one of the following and didn’t do anything about it; or had to make a decision about one of them.


Write about a time you:

  • Stole something
  • Told a lie
  • Got caught
  • Got in trouble
  • Was mean to someone
  • Felt like an outcast/made someone feel like an outcast
  • Were overheard saying something unkind
  • Did something you regret
  • Believed something that wasn’t true
  • Someone said something painful to you
  • Felt ashamed about a family secret
  • Didn’t keep a secret
  • Got stood up
  • Tried to hide something about yourself from others: (religion, sexuality, thumb sucking)
  • Felt someone made a false assumption about you
  • Did something to avoid looking like a fool.



Common categories for memoirs:

  • A story about a relationship
  • A story remembering someone who has passed
  • A story of an accomplishment
  • A recovery story
  • A love story
  • A discovery story
  • A story about growing up



Memories to inspire stories. Write about . . .


  • your family’s dishes
  • bicycles
  • swimming
  • someone’s hands
  • fish
  • beds
  • mashed potatoes
  • adult possessions which intrigued you
  • dancing
  • ice cream



This content has been adapted from Gunn High School’s Creative Writing Program


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