In this post, we’re going to explore the sorts of examples of a six word memoir, and how you can write your own new 6 word memoirs. And, for the avoidance of doubt 2023 refers to the year, rather than the number of memoirs on offer!
And don’t forget that you can enter your Six Word Memoirs into the Six Word Wonder contest.
What is the meaning of memoir?
Before we think about examples of six word memoirs, we should consider what a memoir actually is.
Memoir comes from the French word, mémoire, and back to the Latin memoria. This is the same stem as memory.
A memoir is a personal account of their past. So, a memoir is a form of autobiography.
Wikipeida describes a memoir as “any nonfiction narrative writing based in the author’s personal memories.” Google Dictionary says a memoir is “an autobiography or a written account of one’s memory of certain events or people.”
What is a 6 Word Memoir?
A six word memoir is an autobiography of your life, told in only six words. An example of a six word memoir might be:
Six-word memoirs can expand to an entire life or take the tiniest moment in a person’s life to illustrate a broader story. You are trying to sum up your life in a sentence.
A six word memoir should be personal, thoughtful, and honest. But remember, those 6 words don’t have to be serious. The style should represent your personality. If you are the class clown, there’s no need for a deep and severe memoir. Instead, it can be light, sharp, or funny. The best memoirs capture the essence of a person in the magic of the language used.
Using 6 words to describe your life
Okay, six words aren’t much. Any example of a six word memoir is only going to be an element of every breath you’ve taken. You have more toes than words allowed. But there are over 1 million words in the English language, so at least you have a few options.
The secret is to select exactly the right words, the perfect words, to describe your unique life. In combination, six words theoretically gives you 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 combinations of words. And that’s only if you don’t repeat any! Ok, so you can definitely find a combination of words that is unique to you.
Take words, play with them, and capture an essence of your life.
Are Six Word Memoirs like an obituary?
When the rich and famous die, an obituary is often written to encapsulate their life. Often the more important you were, the longest your obituary.
Some people think of their six word memoir as what they imagine, or would like, their obituary to read.
You can also think of this as what you might like written on your gravestone.
Don’t think of this morbidly. Your obituary can be joyful, dry, or tongue-in-cheek. Whatever you feel best sums you up.
An example of a six word memoir obituary might be Eric Morecambe’s classic:
How to write a Six Word Memoir
Summarize your life, in a way that makes sense to the reader, using only six words.
This is the simple task you are challenged to follow. But to really get the best and most insightful memoir, you should:
- think deeply about who you are – things you’ve done, your personality, your likes and dislikes
- think about how other people see you
- experiment with your words, language, syntax, and punctuation.
Don’t settle for your first attempt. The secret to writing a great six word memoir is to try out many angles to home in on who you really are.
Here’s a step-by-step example of how to write a great six word memoir
- Find a place you won’t be disturbed for ten minutes.
- Take out a pen and paper, or a screen and keyboard.
- Do a ‘First Burst’ of ideas. Try to write as many different ideas out as possible. You’re aim here is not to reach perfection straight away. The aim is to empty your head of all your possible ideas. These don’t have to be six words in length. You could just write a single phrase, a word, or a memory.
- Now, add to your first burst. Now, jot down more ideas by answering these questions in just a few words:
- What characteristics best define you?
- What are your likes and dislikes?
- How would your parents describe you? Your teacher? Your boss? Your best friend? Your worst enemy? Your family?
- What are your proudest achievements? Or your biggest failures?
- Where’s your happy place? And where are you least comfortable?
- What are you great at doing? What do you wish you were great at doing?
- You should now have filled a page (or pages) with ideas. Now, go back through what you’ve written. Look for connections and patterns. Look for words you are drawn to. Look at what phrases trigger emotions in you. Highlight words. Move them around. Gather together the themes and repeated tropes.
- Now pick a word or phrase you found most interesting, and write five six word phrases that might explain to a reader what you mean.
- Edit. Cut out superfluous words. Consider alternative order. Punctation. Synonyms and different words.
- Narrow down your ideas to a final shortlist of memoirs you are most happy with. The ones that speak to you, or just feel right.
- Share these memoirs with people you trust. Ask for their feedback.
Why use only 6 words for my memoir?
There are examples of memoirs that run to a thousand pages. There is no real limit to how many words can be written about a person.
Six words have been found, through a lot of trial and error, to be close to the shortest amount of words that can be used to get to the heart of someone.
Sure, there are shorter phrases. Famously, “Jesus wept,” could be an even shorter biographical summation of His life. But getting six words allows you to expand to this example of a six word memoir:
Now, we’re getting some real detail and evolution in the story of the son of God.
By setting a fixed allotment of six words, it really forces you to think and challenge yourself. Also, for the reader, it keeps things pithy and to the point. It is very difficult to waffle on or ramble with only six words to play with.
Do you have to be old to write six word memoirs?
Now, you don’t need to have lived a long life to write a 6 word memoir. Anyone can do it. Whether you are a middle-grader or an octogenarian, you have a deep well of experience to draw from. Your personality change over time and so may the story of your life.
What’s the difference between a Six Word Memoir and a Six Word Poem, Story, or Joke?
Six Word Wonders is the phrase we use to cover all the different types of messages that can be communicated in just six words.
Many people get confused about the difference between a memoir and some of the other major forms of six word phrases, like poems, stories or jokes.
The reality is, the different varieties of six word wonder overlap. A six word memoir may also be poetic, or tell a story, or sometimes have a punchline like a joke. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, a hybrid of styles can make memoirs more interesting and engaging.
You know the truth of whether a six word memoir reflects your personal history and reality. Your reader can’t read your mind, so they can’t be certain if what you’ve written truly reflects your truth.
Example of a six word memoir that is also a story
Six word stories tell a narrative, taking readers on a journey from one place to another. Here we see the main character initially wanted, eventually grows old, and ends work. Hopefully, retirement is a happy ending!
Example of a six word memoir that is also poetry
Six word poetry communicates feelings and ideas with a special intensity, with a distinctive style and rhythm. In the above example, an individual memoir becomes poetry thanks to the rhythm of the words, of the structure moving from one word, to two, to three as the family grows. There is also an internal rhyme between “we” and “family”.
Example of a six word memoir that is also a joke
Six word jokes are intended to make you laugh. Colbert’s meta-memoir-joke hybrid reflects his own sense of irony. His memoir reads like something that might be chiseled on his gravestone.
Can a Six Word Memoir be about another person?
Many memoirs are personal and autobiographical. But, it is also quite possible and interesting to write someone else’s biography as a six word memoir.
Pick a famous or infamous person or event. Put yourself in their shoes, and see if you can write a memoir from their perspective.
Example of Six Word Memoirs as biography
In this example of a six word memoir of Vincent Van Gogh you only see a high-level selection of moments from his life. Of course, a mere 6 words can’t capture everything. But maybe in these words, there is an essence of truth hidden here.
Even fictional characters like Adam and Eve can get their own biography. This story is obviously being playful about the fun to be had in the garden of Eden.
This story of Ted Kennedy uses six punchy words to take you step by step through periods of his life. With the added bonus of a strong word structure and rhyme.
More examples of six word memoirs
Here, each sample of a six word memoir is intended to start your imagination to come up with your own. Consider the form of the memoirs. Are they one sentence or several? Do they include elements of poetry, or story, or jokes, or all three? Do you know what the writer means? What message they are trying to get across? Do you think each example of a six word memoir was successful? Why or why not?
Examples of Six-Word Memoirs from Reddit
You can find lots of six word memoirs and stories on Reddit’s forum. Here’s a selection of the best
Is For Sale: Baby Shoes: Never Worn an example of a six-word memoir?
Many people’s first introduction to the six word format is the famous newspaper add (or is it Ebay these days)
But is it a memoir? Maybe. When we read the story we get a dramatic vision of who the person selling the booties might be, why they were never worn, and why the author might be selling them.
So the six-worder undoubtedly tells the reader a narrative story. The distinction for a memoir here is whether it’s autobiographical, a memory, or whether this is the truth one person has used to summarize their life.
Nobody has definitively proved who originally wrote Baby Shoes. Although the rumour the Ernst Hemmingway wrote it have been debunked. As a result, we will probably never know for certain if this was really a true memoir, a fictional memoir, or simply a fascinating story.
If you think it does a job of summing up a person’s life, then it has done its job as a memoir.
Example of a six word memoir – TL/DR
Your life-story in 6 words.
Where to find more examples of Six Word Memoirs?
Hopefully, each example of a six word memoir included here has given you ideas of writing your own. One of the best ways to learn more about these little life stories is to read about them. As part of the Six Word Wonder series, we now have three books including six word stories, poems, jokes, and importantly, memoirs.
I’ve written my own six word memoir. Now what?
If you have written a six word memoir you are proud of, share it with the world. Show it to your family and friends. Blog about it. Tweet it. Make it an Instagram. Add it to a six word memoir or stories Reddit board.
And why not enter it in the Six Word Wonder contest? Its free to enter, and gives you the chance to get recognition and even publication of your mini-autobiography.