Deciding whether to write a memoir or embellishment

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satyesu

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I feel like I have a story to tell and things I want to get out there, but I'm unfamiliar with memoirs and I'm not sure the real story would be interesting or if I could tell it well. I'm considering turning it into a novel with a more structured storyline because I fear I might ramble otherwise, but stream-of-consciousness appeals to me...I don't know what to do here. Guidance would be appreciated. :)
 

Siri Kirpal

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That depends on what you plan to do.

With memoir, you have to be more careful to avoid things that are likely to bring lawsuits. Although, that could prove a problem with a novel too, if other people you've known see themselves in your characters and don't like it.

Basically, go with your gut. If you think you'd do a better job with it as a novel, then do it that way.

Memoirs, however, can be easier to write, because you don't have to make up your characters or your plot. Instead, you carve out of your life those stories with strong arcs that other people might relate to.

Best of luck.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

satyesu

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Thanks, Siri! I think in a way I have to go with a novel because after my brain in jury, my recollection of the time period I'm writing about is "blurry." I'm not sure I could keep it factual. Is that a good way to look at it, IYO?
 

cornflake

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Thanks, Siri! I think in a way I have to go with a novel because after my brain in jury, my recollection of the time period I'm writing about is "blurry." I'm not sure I could keep it factual. Is that a good way to look at it, IYO?

If it were a memoir, you could always ask others for their recollections, etc., but if you feel it'd be easier to fictionalize, then you should do that.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Nobody has total recall. Even those of us with good memories. To write my memoirs I've used photos and newspapers and other peoples' memories to assist the process. Most of us fudge some things by reconstructing things that happened on a regular basis, or recreating conversations we know that took place and where we know what the gist was. What you have to do if you go this route is put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book.

But you sound like you'd prefer to write a novel of the experience, and if that's so, that's what you should do.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

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Changing a memoir to a novel never really works very well, in my opinion. They're such different forms. Either write the memoir or write a novel, but don't try to combine the two.
 

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I think it also depends on how comfortable you are with writing about certain personal topics. A memoir is deeply personal and it seems to me it would take some soulsearching.

With an embellished novel, Theres a bit more distance, even if its based on real life. You could choose what you take from your real life and what parts you’d rather fictionalize. I think it would be easier to write, but thats just me.
 

KBooks

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One thing with memoirs is that to get trade published, usually you need a strong, unique hook, or to be someone famous. Not that getting published is ever easy. Or, you may want to write it as a memoir just for you, which is fine, too.

Another thing to consider is that you can always use some of your experiences as a basis for a more structured novel as you describe. This doesn't mean the characters have to mirror your life exactly. But a character could have a brain injury, or another experience or characteristic you wanted to incorporate, while still being a unique character separate from you, with a story arc and setting entirely different from your life.
 

mrsmig

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Whichever route you end up taking, be upfront about it. A woman I met at a writers conference self-published a first-person memoir about being sexually abused as a child, but inserted fictional material about her adult life (including a scene where she shot and killed a would-be rapist). She confused and even angered a number of readers who felt deceived.
 

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