View Full Version : Write a memoir or turn it into fiction?

L M Ashton
08-17-2006, 07:31 PM
What if a person's life was, oh, not at all typical to the point of either witnessing or experiencing things as sordid as various forms of child abuse, child pornography, child prostitution, attempted infanticide, attempted murder, multiple successful murders (as in, no body ever found, murderer never suspected), off shore bank accounts to launder money, scams and collusion in an industry, bribery and extortion, stalking, murder for hire, organized crime... Things that are so beyond what "normal" (whoever they are) people are familiar with.

What if that person on the one hand wanted to write about it but on the other hand would not be willing to write it under his/her own name or in any other way have his/her real name associated with it (fear of repercussions, ya know)? The writer would not be able to use that book, if successful, to propel his/her writing career forward. But then, who would believe it? So much happened that really, who would ever believe it possible?

Or this writer could fictionalize it. Turn it into a series of novels instead - break the experiences into a series of novels to make it more believable.

Use the novels to build a readership.

What would you suggest this writer do? More importantly, why?

08-17-2006, 09:29 PM
I'm always suspicious when a memoirist claims to have suffered every crime in the book. Also, the infanticide is a red flag for me, since too many of the discredited 'recovered memory' folks claimed that.

L M Ashton
08-18-2006, 04:39 AM
Right. So truth be damned because it's far too impossible to be even remotely believable.

Thanks. :)

05-30-2007, 05:12 PM
You know, I've been thinking a lot about the same thing for awhile re:write a memoir or turn it into fiction, as well. I'm not sure if it's because parts of my life would be seen as totally unbelievable, or that I still don't fully understand what really happened in parts of my life ('cause more and more, it's really beginning to look like some amateurish Freudian b.s. to be frank), so I'm wrestling with whether I should put it on ice indefinitely and concentrate on another WIP (a novel), or if I should put it as a semi-autobiographical fiction story that may be easier to swallow (maybe). Also, I'm still fairly new to writing, and feel that if I gain more experience in this profession, I would be better able to convey my feelings on paper while avoiding many of the general newbie writing mistakes, like show don't tell, etc? Grrrr, frustrating...but I think I know the answer already *re-reads SYW critiques*

05-30-2007, 08:30 PM
If you have a compelling true story to tell (and the truth of that story is verifiable), then by all means write a memoir. Nonfiction outsells fiction these days; it's usually easier to sell a well-written memoir on a compelling topic (though still not easy overall) than it is to sell fiction by an unknown author.

However, if you plan to embellish an already sensational story, then stick to fiction. James Frey has taught us a lot about what can happen (financially and legally) when you fabricate a phony memoir.

In the end, both memoir and fiction must be VERY well-written and compelling to sell, especially if you are an unknown writer without an existing media platform. 99.5% of writers who attempt to sell their writing will fail. You have to aspire to become the 0.5% who succeed, and the quality of your writing must develop accordingly.