Combining characters- memoir

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Jim Williams

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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?

Having no expertise outside my one, first degree, attempted, memoir, I note one of my goals is to make sure what I write can be related to by the readers in their own lives. I wonder if your question isn't unrelated to how these five different people will react to how close your description of them fits as they think of themselves in their own lives?

Then again, maybe pose the question as to how they wish to be portrayed directly, then build your memoir around the permission you gain.

I'm not sure what I would do.
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Ok, I got kind of tangled in words. I would ask the five if they felt theirs roles in the manuscript reflected who they actually are in real life. If it does, I'd say you were home free.
 
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khobar

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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.

I think you were right the first time since memoir is based on truth from one's perspective/recollection, not the absolute truth.
 

Gringa

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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.

The truth will be there. The reality too. Thanks Neal

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.

The only reason to combine would be to lessen characters. Minor characters.

Having no expertise outside my one, first degree, attempted, memoir, I note one of my goals is to make sure what I write can be related to by the readers in their own lives. Yep- this is true and I think I have this part covered I wonder if your question isn't unrelated to how these five different people will react to how close your description of them fits as they think of themselves in their own lives?

I doubt the minor characters I want to combine would ever know the book was written quite honestly...

Then again, maybe pose the question as to how they wish to be portrayed directly, then build your memoir around the permission you gain. This will come later if need be.

I'm not sure what I would do.
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Ok, I got kind of tangled in words. I would ask the five if they felt theirs roles in the manuscript reflected who they actually are in real life. If it does, I'd say you were home free. The five I'm talking about are so minor,I don't think it'd make a bit of difference. This is why I want to combine them.

Thanks Jim.

I think you were right the first time since memoir is based on truth from one's perspective/recollection, not the absolute truth.

Agree. And I will add: A Memoir is not a report. Not journalism. There's a big difference.

Thanks khobar.
 

Jim Williams

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Thanks Siri Kirpal~


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.

If you don't mind, I'll add I know of a real couple here in California, who are portrayed as a couple of the characters in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

In real life, the husband was the brains behind Caesar Chavez in his forming the United Farm Workers, and the wife headed a Halfway House for people with mental problems in the 60's and the 70's here in San Francisco. Perhaps this will add to your view.
 
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Siri Kirpal

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To answer your question about turning memoirs into fiction: usually you really need to change things. Combine characters, shift locale, shift professions, add subplots, etc. But basically, write it like a novel.

I've read Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate, in which she talks about how she turned passages of her life into her first four novels. That might be a good book to look at.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

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[/QUOTE]Agree. And I will add: A Memoir is not a report. Not journalism. There's a big difference.

Thanks khobar.[/QUOTE]

A memoir is also not fiction! I would say it is closer to journalism than to a novel.
 

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If you don't mind, I'll add I know of a real couple here in California, who are portrayed as a couple of characters in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

In real life, the husband was the brains behind Caesar Chavez in his forming the United Farm Workers, and the wife headed a Halfway House for people with mental problems in the 60's and the 70's here in San Francisco. Perhaps this will add to your view.

Grapes of Wrath is a novel not a memoir. There is a lot more freedom to change things around.
 

Jim Williams

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Grapes of Wrath is a novel not a memoir. There is a lot more freedom to change things around.

Sorry, I wasn't clear. I know Grapes of Wrath is a novel. Of what I'm aware, is that two of the characters in the novel were fashioned by Steinbeck from his observing two real people in their own real lives. These two real people had the actual lives I mentioned.

What I don't know is who the characters portrayed in the novel by the real husband and wife are, so I'm not going to name the real ones.

I mentioned all of this to perhaps help gringa sort through his questions.
 
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Gringa

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If you don't mind, I'll add I know of a real couple here in California, who are portrayed as a couple of characters in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

In real life, the husband was the brains behind Caesar Chavez in his forming the United Farm Workers, and the wife headed a Halfway House for people with mental problems in the 60's and the 70's here in San Francisco. Perhaps this will add to your view.

interesting Jim...you know these people personally?
 

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

To answer your question about turning memoirs into fiction: usually you really need to change things. Combine characters, shift locale, shift professions, add subplots, etc. But basically, write it like a novel. Right now my MS reads more like a novel. But all true. (Too much so....)

I've read Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate, in which she talks about how she turned passages of her life into her first four novels. That might be a good book to look at. Looking forward to checking this out. Thanks for this info.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Thanks Siri~
 

Gringa

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A memoir is also not fiction! I would say it is closer to journalism than to a novel.

True. I get this. But to me journalism is: she did this, she did that. And my story doesn't read like this one iota.

Thanks gettingby
 
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Gringa

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Sorry, I wasn't clear. I know Grapes of Wrath is a novel. Of what I'm aware, is that two of the characters in the novel were fashioned by Steinbeck from his observing two real people in their own real lives. These two real people had the actual lives I mentioned.

What I don't know is who the characters portrayed in the novel by the real husband and wife are, so I'm not going to name the real ones. as you shouldn't!

I mentioned all of this to perhaps help gringa sort through his questions.

Thanks Jim-
 
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Gringa

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Thanks everyone. I appreciate all your help.

I'll just have to figure out if I want to keep my memoir as is, or switch it to fiction. And if so, how? And will it lose the zip? And will I have to up the stakes?

This is what's mulling over in my mind right now. Plus if I change the locale, it will lose a lot. Then again, maybe not.

So....what's a gringa gal gonna do.....?
 
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Jim Williams

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So....what's a gringa gal gonna do.....?
I'm not certain what you are up to with this, but as a result I Googled gringa to discover in an urban dictionary, among other things, gringa means a female gringo. hmmm.

I was once an organizer for the UFW in the LA Boycott. I had nothing to do with the higher ups, and only met Caesar Chavez once at a UFW party. After the No on 22 political campaign was over, and after a trip to Spain, I moved to San Francisco.

Not everything went well for me here, and I found I needed the shelter of a halfway house to pull through. In a twist of fate, the day I showed up for my intake interview, I found I knew the receptionist, because we had just worked together as fellow organizers in the UFW.

Then I learned of the previous marriage connection between the director of the halfway house, and a higher up in the UFW. I learned of the connection between them and John Steinbeck from the staff in the halfway house.

Again I have no idea what parts in the book these two represented. I'll just note from my perspective alone, this couple is more famous than the characters in The Grapes of Wrath. All just to say I'd be careful about merging characters together.

Thanks for your time reading this.
 
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Gringa

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I'm not certain what you are up to with this, but as a result I Googled gringa to discover in an urban dictionary, among other things, gringa means a female gringo. hmmm.
yep-

I was once an organizer for the UFW in the LA Boycott. I had nothing to do with the higher ups, and only met Caesar Chavez once at a UFW party. After the No on 22 political campaign was over, and after a trip to Spain, I moved to San Francisco.

Not everything went well for me here, and I found I needed the shelter of a halfway house to pull through. In a twist of fate, the day I showed up for my intake interview, I found I knew the receptionist, because we had just worked together as fellow organizers in the UFW.

Then I learned of the previous marriage connection between the director of the halfway house, and a higher up in the UFW. I learned of the connection between them and John Steinbeck from the staff in the halfway house. this is ALL very interesting Jim

Again I have no idea what parts in the book these two represented. I'll just note from my perspective alone, this couple is more famous than the characters in The Grapes of Wrath. All just to say I'd be careful about merging characters. together.

Thanks for your time reading this.

Thanks for sharing this Jim.
 

Siri Kirpal

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It's perfectly okay for a memoir to read like fiction and still be true. So don't change to fiction for that reason.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Gringa

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

It's perfectly okay for a memoir to read like fiction and still be true. So don't change to fiction for that reason.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Thank you Siri. Good to know.

My main reason, I suspect, would be for privacy for me and all included. This is what's on my mind at the moment. Anytime I try to change truth to fiction, I get trapped. I may as well start over, write another story.

So for now, I straddle the fence.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Ah, the am I willing to sacrifice my privacy and that of my loved ones debate. You're on your own for answering that. :)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Gringa

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

Ah, the am I willing to sacrifice my privacy and that of my loved ones debate. You're on your own for answering that. :)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Yep. One minute I'm all in, ready to roll. The next, not. Back and forth.

Thanks Siri~
 

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George McDonald Fraser wrote the McAuslan books based on his experiences in the Gordon Highlanders. In the first couple of books it is not explicit it is the Gordon Highlanders, it is just a Highland regiment. In the third book (I think it is the third one) he runs into his old commanding officer (retired) who calls him on it and says "make it clear it is the Gordon Highlanders" so he does.
They also have a discussion about McAuslan - who is a composite character. It is never made explicit who he is composed of, but GMF and the Colonel have a discussion about "ah yes, when he does such and such, I thought that wasn't like him, of course that was taken from so and so". MacAuslan is a composite awful private - the sort you truly do not want in your company - but is based on several real people. So nothing is made up, it is just compressed.

I'd recommend the three McAuslen books as a very funny read.
 

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