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Pamster
01-14-2007, 04:37 AM
Just curious as I don't know if they are or not. I wrote mine from 3rd person POV and as such even if memoirs are narrative non-fiction then I don't know that mine qualifies. Just as an example this is the opening paragraph and one line of dialogue directly after it:

It had been another horrible day at school when Pamela Hammersley left
to head home on her motorcycle. Intent on escaping the campus where
some people who’d known her all her life felt justified tormenting her
day after day. She frowned when she unlocked her helmet and realized
her motorcycle’s back tire was completely flat.

"Who the hell did this to my freaking bike?" Pam wondered aloud.


I hate to think that I might have to rewrite the entire book to be suited to people's expectations of a traditional memoir, but maybe that is what I am going to have to do...ugh, not liking that option but I simply must get this book sold! :tongue

I am not looking for feedback on the story itself or I'd have posted in the Non-Fiction SYW forum, I'm just trying to get my head around the idea of what constitutes "Narrative Non-Fiction" and if I what I have written constitutes NNF or if it is some other type of 'animal' so thank you all in advance for your sagely advice, you've all been wonderful and I really have learned an awful lot in a short period of time thanks to this awesome place. :Hug2:

Little Red Barn
01-14-2007, 07:32 AM
Pam I actually spent two months researching this...Memoirs are of course non-fiction books but are Memoirs and thats how you'll classify it...go to the bookstore and look at the Memoir section...this will help. Written various ways!
NO is def not Narritive Non-Fiction-----Memoir sweetie!

PS I have something identical...not your words but the way I open!

Little Red Barn
01-14-2007, 08:09 AM
Ok Pamela, I got my note;
If you are writing from personal experience, presented in truth and fact you'll search for agents(after you are done ) that represent memoirs.
To give yourself an idea(learned this after I wrote the book) of the types of memoirs that are popular and have been sold and their writing styles go to the library or bookstore.

Pamster
01-14-2007, 05:33 PM
Thank you Kimmi, I appreciate the info. That is what I have done, gone to agent query and set up a search on Memoirs as a genre. Then queried those who take e-queries. So what is classified as narrative non-fiction? Like personal essays? Or what? I have seen the term and often wondered what it is referring to in the world of writing. I am done with the book, and actively searching for representation but finding no one wanting it yet. I will have to look at some memoirs from the library and see, good idea thanks for suggesting it. :)

Little Red Barn
01-14-2007, 06:24 PM
Ok I believe just google or Wikpedia the word narrative non`fiction~ you don't worry about that it'll just drive you crazy, You did not write that ok? just follow agents info on what they want~
You have to stay under memoirs...not narrative non-fiction...be sure and research your agents.

Pamster
01-14-2007, 06:38 PM
I'm just saying it sounds interesting and I wonder what defines the genre as I might perhaps want to give it a try someday. I know better then to send a query to someone on the memoir book if they're not listing 'memoirs' as material they represent. ;) Just curious about what NNF is. I'll google it as you suggested though, thanks Kimmi. :)

Little Red Barn
01-14-2007, 06:43 PM
I'm just saying it sounds interesting and I wonder what defines the genre as I might perhaps want to give it a try someday. I know better then to send a query to someone on the memoir book if they're not listing 'memoirs' as material they represent. ;) Just curious about what NNF is. I'll google it as you suggested though, thanks Kimmi. :)
ahh I see~ Well stick around and you'll get your answer. Good luck!

hugs kimmi

Pamster
01-14-2007, 07:37 PM
Definitely sticking around, you guys are stuck with me! :Hug2:

jennifer75
01-17-2007, 04:59 AM
Just curious why you chose to write it this way (she, instead of I)??


Just curious as I don't know if they are or not. I wrote mine from 3rd person POV and as such even if memoirs are narrative non-fiction then I don't know that mine qualifies. Just as an example this is the opening paragraph and one line of dialogue directly after it:

It had been another horrible day at school when Pamela Hammersley left
to head home on her motorcycle. Intent on escaping the campus where
some people who’d known her all her life felt justified tormenting her
day after day. She frowned when she unlocked her helmet and realized
her motorcycle’s back tire was completely flat.

"Who the hell did this to my freaking bike?" Pam wondered aloud.


I hate to think that I might have to rewrite the entire book to be suited to people's expectations of a traditional memoir, but maybe that is what I am going to have to do...ugh, not liking that option but I simply must get this book sold! :tongue

I am not looking for feedback on the story itself or I'd have posted in the Non-Fiction SYW forum, I'm just trying to get my head around the idea of what constitutes "Narrative Non-Fiction" and if I what I have written constitutes NNF or if it is some other type of 'animal' so thank you all in advance for your sagely advice, you've all been wonderful and I really have learned an awful lot in a short period of time thanks to this awesome place. :Hug2:

Pamster
01-18-2007, 10:07 PM
I wanted to write the memoir as if it was a novel, done in 3rd person. :) I wasn't comfortable using 1st person. :p

Susan B
02-03-2007, 06:29 AM
Hello Pam,

Yes, you can drive yourself a little crazy with these definitions, because there is not absolute agreement. Narrative, creative,literary nonfiction? Is memoir a type of narrative nonfiction (a google search suggests it is) or in a class by itself?

The question, of course, is practical: figuring out what to call your book and how to identify agents to query.

Best bet is to focus on agents who indicate they represent memoir. However, I wouldn't rule out agents who represent "narrative nonfiction." Partly because they may consider memoir as falling in this category. But also because many nonfiction books can be categorized in a variety of ways. If your personal story is interwoven with significant background information about your subject, or it includes an examination of other peoples' experiences, then the book might feel less like a memoir and more like narrative nonfiction.

And there is talk that interest in memoirs may have peaked. Or, at the very least, that writers of memoir need to address issues that have relevance beyond their own particular lives. So, in your query letter you might want to call your book a memoir, but also note elements of your personal story that speak to larger issues. (Based on what you've said, this might relate to issues of recovery from a serious accident, dealing with the healthcare system, and so on.)

Writing in 3rd person--that does introduce another element. Does it make it easier to call it narrative nonfiction? Or is it a novel based on personal experience? Lots of controversy about this, in connection with some recent best-selling memoirs by James Frey, JT Leroy, and others.

In my query letters, I occasionally described my book as narrative nonfiction (because it does involve my experience with a particular style of music) though usually as memoir, and that's how the agent who eventually took it on is now presenting it.

Good luck!

Susan B

bruisernyc
02-03-2007, 10:24 AM
A memoir is your personal experience shared with a reader. Therefore it makes sense to write it in the first person, to speak to the reader as you would speak to a friend about an event or series of events that happened in your life. I'm not understanding why you would completely detach from yourself in this way and write about your story as if it happened to someone else.

ResearchGuy
02-05-2007, 08:12 AM
I wanted to write the memoir as if it was a novel, done in 3rd person. :) I wasn't comfortable using 1st person. :p
When Kiyo Sato's memoir, Dandelion Through the Crack, is published later this year (Willow Valley Press, Nevada City, CA -- probably to be published late spring or early summer) I hope you will read it with an eye on the possibilities of memoir. Kiyo wrote Dandelion not only in first person (other than some look-back material that of course had to be third person, as she was not a direct witness, or even a participant), but, strikingly, in present tense. It took a while to dawn on me as I read the manuscript that it was in present tense. The result of that style is to enable the reader to envision the story through the author's eyes, but almost as if in a reverie (perhaps not too far off the mark given what went into crafting the manuscript).

Dandelion reads much like a novel, with foreshadowing of key scenes and an arc that takes the reader through growing dismay--and even anger--anxiety, sadness, all ultimately leading to a resolution that is satisfying, leaving the reader feeling good, even though the author has recounted such events as imprisonment (along with her family and more than a hundred thousand other people of Japanese ancestry) by the American government, and stark denial of civil rights. It is a frightening warning that it CAN happen here, and has happened here. Still . . . at the end, there is resolution and hope. Amazing. (The manuscript came within a whisker of being signed away to PublishAmerica, which would have ruined it. It is fortunate that I was in the right place at the right time to head off that disaster.)

I do not recall reading many present-tense narratives. Sophie Kinsella's "Shopaholic" chick-lit novels (yes, I read those if they catch my eye, and that series certainly did) are in first person and present tense. That works well for her protagonist's zany adventures. It is hard to see how they could have been written in past tense, with the looking-back attitude, and some separation from events, that past tense requires. And of course WAY too much of what is going on in the protagonist's head has to be laid out for the reader to let third person work. That might be a consideration for you. Would third person really allow you to recount your own thoughts and feelings adequately?

FWIW.

--Ken

bruisernyc
02-06-2007, 06:15 PM
It is a trend to write in the present tense..Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors, does this in the first chapter of the book.

Pamster
02-06-2007, 06:25 PM
Thanks for all the great replies everyone. :) I tried writing it in first person, but I wasn't able to get very far. It's like it wanted to come out the way that it did and that it was not something I would be able to write in first person, it would have ended up being very short. ;) That new memoir sounds interesting Ken, thanks for posting about it. :)

I think you're right Susan, that it would benefit me to work on the query letter and mention more about the larger aspects of the story like how it focuses on recovering from serious accidents and the state of our healthcare system, I have been working hard to find an agent but so far no bites. Thanks for the advice Susan. :)

johnrobison
02-11-2007, 05:29 PM
It is a trend to write in the present tense..Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors, does this in the first chapter of the book.

Augusten is my younger brother, so I am probably uniquely qualified to comment on his use of tenses in our stories.

The use of present tense creates an immediacy and tension that is not present if the story is told in past tense. Like my brother, when I wrote my own book, I had a mix of tenses. Some stories were told in present tense, some in past. It was a significant bit of work for me to go back and straighten all that out later on . .

Here is an example of stories told both ways:

Jim walks over to plug the pump in. When he does, a spark seems to jump clean across the garage, and in an instant, the tub of gasoline is on fire. It seems like the whole place is on fire. With all the fumes, it probably is.

“Fuck!”

“Fire!”
“Get out!”

“Now! Run!”
I am close to the door, and I jump out, leaving my beer behind. All of a sudden, the 75 degree night air feels cold. I don’t seem to be on fire, and I don’t feel damaged. Lucky, I guess.

Everyone scatters through the open door, into the safety of the yard. Everyone but Jim. We can see him in there. The garage is filled with flame. Jim’s arm is on fire. He takes off his glove and swats it. The fire goes out. For now, at least.


And here is the same story, in past tense:


Jim walked over to plug the pump in, and a spark jumped clean across the garage. In an instant, the tub of gasoline was on fire. It seemed like the whole place was on fire. With all the fumes, it probably was.
“Fuck!”
“Fire!”
“Get out!”
“Now! Run!”
I was close to the door, so I jumped out, leaving my beer behind. All of a sudden, the 75 degree night air felt cold. I didn’t seem to be on fire, and I didn’t feel damaged. Lucky, I guess.
Everyone scattered through the open door, into the safety of the yard. Everyone but Jim. We could see him in the flame-filled garage. His arm was on fire. He took off his glove and swatted it, and the fire went out.

Many story tellers - in years past - told their stories in present tense because it addds an immediacy and tension. Movie screenplays may be present tense for the same reason.

Look at the opening of my brother's story:

My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror, smelling polished and ready . .

My mother was standing in front of the mirror, in comparision, sounds flat.

Memoirs usually aren't written that way, though I'm sure that's not a hard and fast rule. I, for one, changed almost all my story to past tense except for certain parts where I wanted to maintain that tension.

I will also add that it's harder for a number of technical reasons to write the whole thing in present tense because you invariably have to jump out of the story for one thing or another and it's hard to be as smooth.

calamity
02-16-2007, 10:16 PM
I'm writing my memoir in the past tense. It's a simpler tense to work with, plus easier to show irony--for example, I wasn't aware of why i did certain things, of my behavior at times, and the past tense makes it easier to let the reader know that I'm aware of these things now because I can make them ironic--it would be more difficult to do that in present tense--the reader might notice it, but they also might think I'm still in the dark. if that makes any sense.