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Aconite
07-12-2006, 05:48 AM
For something a little different, how about a discussion of what not to do in life story writing?

What techniques or themes are so cliched, ineffective, disruptive, unintentionally humorous, or bad in some way that you just wince when you see them coming?

I'll start: Having the Big Reveal at the climax be that the narrator is the protagonist being talked about in the third person throughout the book: "And I know, because I was that little boy!"

Bufty
07-13-2006, 07:34 PM
How about,

I came to in this grotty little barn -it was dreadful, my head ached, my clothes were torn, how did I get there? WHAM - flashback to when I was two years old, and I remember it sooooooooo vividly.

Aconite
07-15-2006, 06:42 PM
Ugh. That one.

How about, "Here's a detailed list of everybody who ever said I wouldn't make it, including every single agent and publisher who turned me down before I went vanity, and exactly what each of them said to me."

MacAllister
07-15-2006, 08:27 PM
There's a certain precious and self-conscious voice I associate with memoir and autobiography, that I'd love to see stamped from the face of the earth. It's a bit less obvious than the cliches y'all are discussing, though. I'm not sure I can nail down the specific language, but it's that overall "everything was much grittier/harder/uglier/colder/seedier, then--and we walked uphill to our one-room schoolhouse, barefoot, in the snow...both ways."

Shwebb
07-15-2006, 08:53 PM
I've seen in some memoirs a sense of passivity that I don't like--as though these people are spectators in their own lives, and they are reporting it, instead of reacting to it.

Aconite
07-16-2006, 02:12 AM
[...] as though these people are spectators in their own lives, and they are reporting it, instead of reacting to it.Or creating it. Yep. I know what you mean. And Mac, ditto.

Shwebb
07-16-2006, 04:06 AM
I would have said "creating" as well, but some biographies and autobiographies seem to be centered around circumstances that changed the author/subjects' lives, like war or 9/11 or a natural disaster.

Kristen King
07-19-2006, 02:41 AM
"Well now you might be thinking that X, Y, and Z are going to happen, but that's not what happened at all."

DTKelly
08-06-2006, 08:26 AM
I'm not sure I can nail down the specific language, but it's that overall "everything was much grittier/harder/uglier/colder/seedier, then--and we walked uphill to our one-room schoolhouse, barefoot, in the snow...both ways."

You forgot the part about how there was only one pair of shoes amongst all the children and they had to share, and how the soles were so thing one could pick up dimes with their toes while they wore them.

;)

MajorDrums
12-15-2006, 06:19 PM
I think that by believing your memoir/autobiography is supposed to be a method in catharsis, or that you have abluted yourself from pain and/or burden simply by writing your life story should be avoided. It just doesn't happen, and I am very suspicious of people who talk about "a weight being lifted off their shoulders" due to writing an autobiography or their memoir. Now, this isn't to say there are NO therapeudic benefits from writing at all; but if you are writing about your life simply to let it all out, then I do not see that being much different from writing in a journal or diary. That could be kept to oneself, because the paying public may not see a reason to be empathic toward someone who is not "talking" to them.

I speak from personal experience. I have been writing my autobiography for the past three years, and one thing I kept telling myself is will I be comfortable enough to sit in the same room with someone who is reading my life story out loud? This question was pertinent to stepping outside of myself, especially since I was writing about abusive situations and touchy subjects. Also, it was mentioned in other threads that life stories about overcoming trauma are a dime a dozen; at the end of the day, an agent and publisher not only want to represent and sell important books, they want to represent and sell important books a significant amount of people are interested in reading. I know that can sound like "DUH," but it is too easy to be isolationist when one is writing down feelings on paper for the first time.

MichelD
12-19-2006, 03:54 AM
What's a sentence link?

Leah J. Utas
12-20-2006, 06:38 PM
I think one of the biggest mistakes you make when writing your life story is believing that you've got something important/new/interesting to say when you don't.
You have to give way to the emotion of the events, but you must also be objective about what happened. If you go on about "poor me my life was so hard" and don't step away to show how the events shaped you, then you'll turn off readers.