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tmon
01-10-2008, 02:21 AM
I am writing a biography of my 6-yr. old nephew who has had brain cancer. As a work of nonfiction, is it acceptable to write dialogue sequences with quotations if the quote is actually not verbatim of a conversation that took place. To clarify, the conversations did take place and the quotations I would like to use are true to the spirit of the conversation, however, I do not have a transcript of conversations that occured over a year ago and as such I don't know exactly how the conversation went. Is this acceptable for a creative nonfiction, or does that cross the line into a work of fiction?

ResearchGuy
01-10-2008, 07:25 AM
I am writing a biography of my 6-yr. old nephew who has had brain cancer. As a work of nonfiction, is it acceptable to write dialogue sequences with quotations if the quote is actually not verbatim of a conversation that took place. . . . Is this acceptable for a creative nonfiction, or does that cross the line into a work of fiction?
I would say it is fine. You could include a brief author's note on the point, to the effect that conversations are true to the spirit of events, based on recollections but not intended as transcripts of the original dialogue.

That's how I see it, at least. (I would not read such a book expecting literal, line by line, replication of the words spoken.)

BTW, I would recommend calling it a memoir, not a biography. Memoir leaves much more room for impressions than suggested by the term "biography."

--Ken

kimmer
01-10-2008, 07:40 AM
I read a book called "The Pact" which is a nonfiction book but since it was written about the author's experience back in middle school, I highly doubt they met any verbatim rules. I agree with research guy.

tmon
01-10-2008, 09:12 AM
Thanks for the input. I had felt the same way, but I wanted a broader base for opinion than mysel.

SHBueche
01-10-2008, 06:43 PM
Research Guy answered exactly as I would have. Agree that quotes are fine (I think quotes make reading "livelier"). Also, I was thinking that an author's note would make sense. Rarely is conversation documented verbatim, unless you uh, included every uh and pause and you know, in the text. And yes, memoir is the way to go!

ResearchGuy
01-10-2008, 07:39 PM
. . . Rarely is conversation documented verbatim, unless you uh, included every uh and pause and you know, in the text. . . .
I once did that, in a very different context, in transcribing part of a public meeting. (Not precisely a conversation, but rather testimony in a regulatory setting.) I was excoriated for my precision in quoting every "uh" and pause, and verbal bobble. But some folks went back and listened to the audio to verify that my transcript was precise and accurate. That still did not satisfy those who wanted heard only what made them comfortable.

More generally, there is an art to writing dialogue that goes beyond the literal recreation of conversation. People seem not to recognize in writing what they hear all the time in casual conversation.

--Ken

tmon
01-11-2008, 12:04 AM
I feel much better about this now. I am trying to be completely truthful in telling the story because it is such a phenominal account that I don't want people to call anything into question. I just wish I were more adept at writing to gain the greatest result.

escritora
01-11-2008, 12:50 AM
BTW, I would recommend calling it a memoir, not a biography. Memoir leaves much more room for impressions than suggested by the term "biography."


Ken, at first I agreed with the above statement. After thinking about it, I have a question. A memoir is a subgenre of an autobiography. If tmon writes the book as a memoir then the story becomes about him, not his nephew. Sure his nephew will be a part of the book, but the word memoir implies that I will be learning more about tmon's journey.

I believe that tmon's book should be narrative nonfiction, but maybe there is another subgenre that's a better fit than memoir.


What's your thought on this?

Jersey Chick
01-11-2008, 12:56 AM
How about stealing Truman Capote's "non-fiction novel"?

escritora
01-11-2008, 01:01 AM
In Cold Blood, one of my favorites.

Is non-fiction novel recognized in the industry? When tmon queries, will agents mock the term or is it a legit one?

Or maybe narrative nonfiction is enough of an explanation?

Jersey Chick
01-11-2008, 01:06 AM
I don't know - I've never used it and I haven't seen any agent blogs regarding such a thing. Hmmm.. Narrative nonfiction might work (see this is why I write fiction :D)

escritora
01-11-2008, 01:08 AM
LOL

ResearchGuy
01-11-2008, 04:17 AM
. . .A memoir is a subgenre of an autobiography.. . .

What's your thought on this?
Look up the definition of "memoir." It need not be about the author--not autobiographical per se. But if not, the author has to be a close observer/friend/associate of the subject in order for the term "memoir" to apply. And the term allows for a sort of impressionism not proper in biography or autobiography per se.

Note that the term "memoirs" has a distinct meaning (U.S. Grant's memoirs, for example), the formal recollections of a distinguished (typically well known) individual.

--Ken

escritora
01-11-2008, 06:08 AM
The definitions that came up on an internet search state a memoir is autobiographical.

Off the top of your head, can you think of a published memoir that isn't autobiographical? I did a quick search on amazon and couldn't find one.

K1P1
01-11-2008, 06:41 AM
There are at least a few...

The Fur Person by May Sarton (memoir of a cat)
Dead as Doornails, by Anthony Cronin
The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston, by Siegfried Sassoon

escritora
01-11-2008, 06:57 AM
Thanks.

I'm going to pick one up, but not the one about the cat. What's up with writer's and cats anyway? :-)

ResearchGuy
01-11-2008, 07:16 AM
The definitions that came up on an internet search state a memoir is autobiographical .. . .
Allow me to recommend that you not depend solely on "internet searches" for this sort of thing. Try printed college-level dictionaries, for starters (Webster's New World, American Heritage, Merriam-Webster, and a few others).

For example, definition 3 from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd edition, entry for memoir: "a biography or biographical sketch." Not necessarily autobiographical, you will notice.

If the writer was not directly involved (close observer, participant in the events recounted), then it is not going to pass muster as memoir. There has to be an element of personal recollection and rumination. Someone who was close enough to reconstruct conversations personally heard would count as a memoirist, I believe, even if the central subject is not the author himself or herself.

Also pertinent (I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to track this down), the definition of "memoirs" in Thrall, Hibbard, and Holman's 1960 edition of A Handbook to Literature. (Holman updated the 1936 book by Thrall and Hibbard. I've had my copy at hand for more than 40 years.)

My opinions. Yours might differ. But I think my sources are pretty good.

--Ken

ResearchGuy
01-11-2008, 07:18 AM
. . .
The Fur Person by May Sarton (memoir of a cat)
. . .
That is a marvelous book. I must find my copy (might take a while among my ten thousand or so volumes, alas), and reread. But then, I am a cat person. One is frequently on my lap as I type these posts.

--Ken

escritora
01-11-2008, 07:32 AM
My opinions. Yours might differ.

I'm not disagreeing with you. I didn't realize I was in the middle of a debate. I was simply asking a question.


Allow me to recommend that you not depend solely on "internet searches" for this sort of thing.

That was snarky. I just moved into my house and all my books (including reference books) are still in boxes.

My intention here was to soley ask for clarification.

ResearchGuy
01-11-2008, 07:44 AM
. . .
That was snarky. . . .
No snark intended. I have no idea what your living conditions are. But increasingly, especially among the (relatively) young (under 30? 35?), people are relying on the Internet as the be-all and end-all information resource. (I gather that is a rampant problem in the schools.) The Internet is great and I use it all the time, but some kinds of inquiries are still best done the old fashioned way. Good to hear that you agree.

--Ken

Jersey Chick
01-11-2008, 08:08 AM
Ooooh... boxes.... moving in... I remember that all too well... **shudders**

escritora
01-11-2008, 08:25 AM
There was no need for you to be privy to my living conditions or my age in order to respond to my post politely. Starting a post with "allow me to recommend that you" is, at the very least, condescending.

escritora
01-11-2008, 08:32 AM
Ooooh... boxes.... moving in... I remember that all too well... **shudders**

It's a pain. My clothes are still in boxes. I'm wearing the same sweats just about every day! The purchase of my home was stressful. Dealing with contractors as a single woman was horrible.

I hosted New Year's Eve and I don't have furniture. Everyone had to bring their own chairs. :-)

And to top it off, I'm sleeping on a futton.

tmon
01-11-2008, 09:27 AM
Thank you all for the lively discussion. I have found my answer.

By the way, I have decided to avoid submitting my work to any publishers for the time being at least. My brother and I have a very specific target audience into whose hands we want to place my work as quickly as possible. So we have decided to self-publish and market ourselves.

Ryan, my nephew has made amazing strides and has greatly lifted the spirits of everyone who has gotten to know him. There are hundreds of parents and guardians of the kids in the hospital where Ryan was treated that are faced with the same struggles that we faced a year ago. Or desire is to place in their hands, something they can draw encouragement and hope from. I really don't care if I ever earn any financial benefit. Actually, my brother and I committed to each other that any earnings would be divided among the charities that helped them financially and if any remains, we will use it for college funds for our nieces and nephews.

escritora
01-11-2008, 09:35 AM
Good luck, tmon.

It's great to know that your nephew is doing well. Check the forum for self-publishing information.

Be good.

ResearchGuy
01-11-2008, 08:18 PM
There was no need for you to be privy to my living conditions or my age in order to respond to my post politely. Starting a post with "allow me to recommend that you" is, at the very least, condescending.
Interesting point of view. It completely misreads what I intend by that phrase, but it is interesting on that account. I guess sometimes it is simply impossible to offer a recommendation without giving offense.

Try to relax. This is a forum for discussions. No need to be so defensive.

--Ken

escritora
01-12-2008, 02:06 AM
Ken,

I am relaxed. I simply pointed out that your response to me was inappropriate. I stand by my account.

See you around the board, Ken.

Best,
Auria

On Edit:
It completely misreads what I intend by that phrase

Okay, Ken I'll take you on your word that you weren't condescending.