Combining characters- memoir

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Gringa

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Since a memoir is based on the truth, can I combine characters? Turn a couple of people into one person? Or does this slip into fiction territory...
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Opinion is sharply divided on whether this is kosher or a no-no. I think it's okay if a. you put a disclaimer to that effect at the beginning of the book and b. you have a genuine need to disguise certain people.

The other option if you do have a need to disguise people is do what I did. One person who had played an important and positive part in the story later did something that was not so great. It isn't important for the reader to know that the good person did something bad, so I made some statements that are 100% true, but make it sound like that person was actually two.

If you have two people who are minor players in your story, I'd say to just keep both rather than combine the way you would for fiction.

Hope that helps.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Gringa

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Opinion is sharply divided on whether this is kosher or a no-no. I think it's okay if a. you put a disclaimer to that effect at the beginning of the book and b. you have a genuine need to disguise certain people.

The other option if you do have a need to disguise people is do what I did. One person who had played an important and positive part in the story later did something that was not so great. It isn't important for the reader to know that the good person did something bad, so I made some statements that are 100% true, but make it sound like that person was actually two.

If you have two people who are minor players in your story, I'd say to just keep both rather than combine the way you would for fiction.

Hope that helps.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Thank you Siri Kirpal. Appreciate this.
 

frimble3

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Are you combining to disguise, or to tighten up the story? If you're just trying to compact events, then taking a few minor characters that basically did the same thing, and making them into one or two composites, is probably not a bad thing.
 

Gringa

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Are you combining to disguise, or to tighten up the story? If you're just trying to compact events, then taking a few minor characters that basically did the same thing, and making them into one or two composites, is probably not a bad thing.

Tighten up.

Thanks frimble3. Appreciate it.
 

frimble3

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No problem, it's sort of like a movie giving you a montage of scenes, rather than showing the same thing, over and over.
If it's a string of bad bosses, or boyfriends, just pick out a couple, and suggest that they're lot of similar people.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

In that case, make sure you do a disclaimer.

Many people will claim this goes into fiction territory. Personally, I don't mind; it wouldn't stop me reading the book. But do cover yourself.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Gringa

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No problem, it's sort of like a movie giving you a montage of scenes, rather than showing the same thing, over and over.
If it's a string of bad bosses, or boyfriends, just pick out a couple, and suggest that they're lot of similar people.

Thanks frimble3

Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

In that case, make sure you do a disclaimer.

Many people will claim this goes into fiction territory. Personally, I don't mind; it wouldn't stop me reading the book. But do cover yourself.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal


Thanks Siri Kirpal
 

khobar

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As you correctly stated, "memoir is based on truth"; it is not the absolute truth. I think you're fine using composite characters, but as Siri Kirpal said, include a disclaimer because some people are just anal about exact details. ;)

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/05/obama-ny-girlfriend-was-composite-character-122272.html

As Frimble3 said, combining a few minor characters that "did the same thing," isn't a bad thing, but is it to avoid repetition or to make a larger statement?

I think the Obama autobiography/memoir article is stunningly revealing on the matter, but even he included a disclaimer. ;)
 

Gringa

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As you correctly stated, "memoir is based on truth"; it is not the absolute truth. I think you're fine using composite characters, but as Siri Kirpal said, include a disclaimer because some people are just anal about exact details. ;)

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/05/obama-ny-girlfriend-was-composite-character-122272.html

As Frimble3 said, combining a few minor characters that "did the same thing," isn't a bad thing, but is it to avoid repetition or to make a larger statement?

I think the Obama autobiography/memoir article is stunningly revealing on the matter, but even he included a disclaimer. ;)

Thank you khobar.
 

khobar

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Just to throw some petrol on the fire, this nugget came to me in an email subscription: "My memoir has a couple paragraphs of fiction and several quotes from others' writings. The rest is all truth."

This is from what appears to be a self-published author talking about her memoir available on Amazon. I don't know how she handled including fiction, and I'm not going to pay $8.99 to find out - I just thought it worth noting that this sort of thing is out there.
 

Gringa

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Just to throw some petrol on the fire, this nugget came to me in an email subscription: "My memoir has a couple paragraphs of fiction and several quotes from others' writings. The rest is all truth."

This is from what appears to be a self-published author talking about her memoir available on Amazon. I don't know how she handled including fiction, and I'm not going to pay $8.99 to find out - I just thought it worth noting that this sort of thing is out there.

Thanks again khobar. All info is good.
 

Jim Williams

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If I imagine to be Richard Nixon's memoir, I have a problem with anything other than the most accurate account. I don't know why anyone would want to make a real life story anything less than the absolute truth. It feels to me like it could be seen as an embellishment of the person the memoir is meant to reflect.
 

Gringa

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Thanks for your take on this Jim. It's not a matter of truth but more of a matter of condensing. For ex: let's say thru-out the story there are five different bartenders. Who on earth would want to read five different names, five different bartenders? Not me. I rather the writer condense this to one character. The bartender.

A memoir isn't reporting.
 

Jim Williams

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You're welcome. I have no idea what is the correct choice, but I'll note what I would do. If I had five different bartenders with five different names, I would either name all of them or name none of them, outside mentioning there was a bartender.

Someone would end up with their name not being mentioned, but there would also be four who wouldn't saying something wasn't correct.

Just a guess.
 

gettingby

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I agree with Jim Williams on this. If you can't tell the story the way it happened, you're not really telling the true story. You also say you are looking to tighten things up. With the people in question if they are not worth mentioning individually, they might not be worth mentioning at all.
 

Gringa

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Thanks Gettingby. I hear ya. And hear Jim too. Now I just need to figure out how to approach this.
 
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Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

As Jim mentioned, you could just not name them at all. But you could keep them in the story, if they have a function there.

For instance, there are 4 or 5 guys named Bob in RL in my memoir. One of these is an important character, and I kept his name. Another needed to have his name changed anyway to protect his spouse's identity. Another got called only by his last name. Another got called by his relationship to me without a name attached. The others where just part of the crowd. That's how I handled that.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Gringa

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Thanks Siri Kirpal- I have a lot to ponder....
 

Jim Williams

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You could name the one bartender, then come up with five different names for a bartender, like call one the barkeep, and so on.
 

Gringa

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Thanks Jim.

Okay. I have another question please.

How far can I go with changing professions, names or physical descriptions? In other words where are the serious distinctions? Parameters?
 

Siri Kirpal

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If you're doing it to protect an identity, go for it, but not to the extent that it changes the reality of the story. If you're doing it to make life interesting for the reader, don't.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Gringa

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

If you're doing it to protect an identity, go for it, but not to the extent that it changes the reality of the story. If you're doing it to make life interesting for the reader, don't.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Thanks Siri Kirpal~

It's more to protect. Not to make it more interesting. As a matter of fact, turning it to fiction kinda traps me up. I just want to make sure I stay legit, if in fact, I keep it as a memoir.

But, and this is a big but, if for some reason I do want to turn it to fiction, then how does this work? Does this now become a novel "based on a true story?" Or what? Curious about this as well.
 

nealraisman

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If it makes the memoir's story more compelling without altering the nature of the truth of what happened, it strikes me as okay to do. Just be sure to keep it from becoming a fictionalized memoir with made-up characters. Keep the truth, the reality alive.
 

nealraisman

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Just rethought my response and have to say I was wrong. If the memoir is purporting to be true then combining characters is interfering with the truth of the memoir. Why do you want to combine them anyhow? just make each a significant part of the story.
 

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