View Full Version : Is there even a market for this type of writing?

06-29-2007, 09:01 PM
Hi all,

I recently posted a biographical short story on the nonfiction show your work section. The problem is, the person is mentally disturbed, and the work is purposely disjointed and there is one small section that breaks into the fantasy world she has created in her mind. All of the sections beside that one are actual occurrences in her life, including the present day sections that are woven throughout.

I'm just wondering if there is a market for writing such as this? Is it something I should just scrap for a more mainstream approach?

I didn't want to post it in this thread, considering it's already posted elsewhere, but I'd appreciate any responses. It's the only thing that I've ever written that could come even close to being classified as nonfiction, so I'm really in the dark here.

Here's the link to the thread containing the short story:



06-29-2007, 09:17 PM
It seems to me you are writing fiction, not memoir. There is always a market for good, well-written fiction, but it's a VERY tough and competitive market. I recommend you seek help on the fiction board, since you're obviously not writing memoir or nonfiction if you are writing a "short story".

06-29-2007, 11:26 PM
Hi azrael, I am unclear on exactly what this is from your description. You say "It's a nonfiction short story that is actually a creative biographical snippet."
This sounds like it's non-fiction that has one fictionalized part.

"biographical short story on the nonfiction show your work section. The problem is, the person is mentally disturbed, and the work is purposely disjointed and there is one small section that breaks into the fantasy world she has created in her mind. All of the sections beside that one are actual occurrences in her life, including the present day sections that are woven throughout."

If it's biographical, that means you are writing it about someone else, an actual person. Is this someone you interviewed or hgave access to a great deal of material about? If the person is mentally disturbed (do you mean mentally iill, or something more specific, like psychotic?) then are you imagining what she is thinking, or has she told you and you are then conveying that to us?

If it is not an actual person, then it is fiction.

The genre will be a part of what determines whether there is a market for it or not.

I've given fdback on the writing on the SYW thread.

Good luck to you and keep writing.

06-30-2007, 01:29 AM
It is an actual person. She was born healthy and at age three months her mother shot her point blank while she slept in her crib. It was due to postpartum depression, but back then it was not a very well documented illness and despite her family's best efforts the mother was not hospitalized before the incident happened. All incidents in the work actually happened to said person.

After the mother underwent a couple years of treatment in a psychiatric hospital she was able to regain custody of the daughter she had paralyzed.
The father in the situation felt guilty about what happened, seeing as he had specifically shooed the grandmother from the house the night of the shooting. He worked very hard to keep the family together through the years, but it actually turned out to do more harm than good.

The mother was constantly in and out of psychiatric wards throughout her daughter's youth, and the stress of dealing with a turbulent home life led the girl to develop an imaginary world that became very close to reality for her. She never felt safe in her home, especially after her parents decided to tell her the real reason she was in a wheelchair as a birthday present when she turned 11. The only way she could find any peace was in reading or writing. She is now a published author, though I would rather not disclose names.

So, yes. I understand what a biography/memoir is. The question is, if it's written with creative inroads to the psychosis of the subject, would it still be considered nonfiction, or would it be kicked over to the fiction side of the street?

The section that is throwing everyone into thinking it is straight fiction was actually described to me as one of the subject's many forms of escapism. She retreats into her fictional world and employs her characters to calm her.

So, sorry if I bothered the non-fiction boards for no reason. It was just an honest question.

06-30-2007, 01:49 AM
This still sounds like fiction to me, since you're imagining parts of the action. It's DEFINITELY not memoir, since you're not writing about your own experience.

06-30-2007, 01:58 AM
Thanks Saka :) I know it's not a memoir. I actually never mentioned that it might be, but it's good to know that it doesn't work as biography either.

I think I'll just suggest that she write her life story the way she wants it, and then submit it as another fiction work. That'd probably be more efficient than my working on it second-hand anyway, and then she doesn't have to actually deal with the family drama.

06-30-2007, 05:18 AM
Thanks Azrael, that helps a lot. As a counselor, I find this story fascinating so I have given you a long response. I really think it's an interesting story, esp since it's about a real person. Heck, it's a lot more interesting than a lot of the bios and autobios and memoirs out there clogging the bookshelves.

It sounds to me as though this is non-fiction. It's a true story and would be considered a biography. You are employing fiction to convey her experiences of emotional and psychological escapism, but that is not unusual for biographers to have to do. Just write as accurately as possible and then fill in the blacks as best you can when you need to. I have seen biographies where, in the intro, the writer has stated that they have re-created conversations to the best of their abilities. A good example is Alex Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X. This is basically what you would be doing. Just be honest about it and it's hunky dory.

You might already know the following so please forgive me and just ignore it if so. From a psychological viewpoint, it sounds to me as though when she escapes, she is dissociating. She is conscious but is able to go away so that she does not have to experience the traumatic events around her. People can dissociate to varying degrees, like be there mentally but shut themselves off physically to avoid physical pain for example. Or she might dissociate emotionally and see herself from a distance, like it seems like she's up in a corner of the room looking down on herself, almost as though the trauma is happening to someone else.

Dissociation is not considered psychosis. Dissociation is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder and is not a mental illness. It is, though, a common (and perfectly healthy) way of dealing with someone else's mental illness, especially if the mentally ill person is a caregiver and the "dissociater" has no physical avenue of escape (like when a kid is stuck with a mentally ill parent.) This is important to note because your subject was probably not psychotic (having hallucinations or delusions stemming from chemical imbalance.) She just had PTSD, which is entirely different, much more easily treatable, and not a chemically based mental illness.

If you want to keep writing this piece, it might help to learn about dissociation so that you can fully describe your subject's experiences. If you are going to write about this seriously, that would be the responsible thing to do. As you move along you can also ask a trusted mental health professional to go over it to verify accuracy. Your publisher would probably do this anyway, prior to publishing.

If the subject is a famous person who has never spoken publicly about these experiences, publishers might be very interested in this project. It's impressive that she was able to find a healthy escape (reading/writing) and has been published. She sounds like one heck of a survivor.

Best if luck to you and I hope you'll keep us posted.

06-30-2007, 07:47 AM
Thank you very much for your post. The subject is a good friend of mine, and while I have started to study what her family suffers from (it seems the women in her family have a history of bipolar disorder and chemical imbalances that is just...startling), however, I never thought (and I think she never really did either) that her issues might be something different. We'll have to look into what you've suggested. It could help in more ways than one considering she's been trying her whole life to "not be crazy." I know that's a horrible way of wording it, but it's nearly midnight and I've had a long, rough day ;)

Anyway, this person has never set foot in a psychiatrist's office, unless it was to drive her mother to an appointment. She's always been terrified that if she ever went, she'd come out with a laundry list of drugs to take like all the other women in her family.

Well, I've rambled enough. Thanks again, and I'll keep you posted!

06-30-2007, 06:35 PM
She is lucky to have you as a firned, it sounds like you're a good one. She may not need a psychiatrist. "Shrinks" (which means psychiatrists specifically) are medical doctors who prescribe drugs. Altho some of them provide counseling, they usually have very little training in it. (Many times only one class, or three college hours only.) Their speciality is treating chemical imbalances through medications. If your friend has PTSD, she might want to try a mental health counselor or psychologist "psychotherapist" instead. She can probably find healing with talk therapy rather than medications. Then if her therapist feels that she has problems that require medication, she would be referred to a psychiatrist for the correct prescriptions. Best of luck to her!

07-01-2007, 06:50 AM
. . . It's DEFINITELY not memoir, since you're not writing about your own experience.
Actually, memoir does not necessarily mean autobiography. It can be used to refer to a biography or biographical sketch, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, for example. The second college edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language concurs (and in fact gives as its first definition, "a biography or biographical notice, usually written by a relative or personal friend of the subject").


07-01-2007, 08:18 PM
Thanks Ken, who knew?

07-04-2007, 04:43 PM
Thanks for the posts guys :) I've been away for the weekend so didn't have time to check the boards till now.

07-04-2007, 06:36 PM
Thanks for posting in here and telling us about your piece on this girl. When I get a chance, I'll look for it in the SYW. (Today is party day; not getting much done except cleaning and cooking. And avoiding cleaning and cooking by sitting here on the forum, right now.)