story arc in memoir??

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Lone Wolf

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I just read a review of a memoir that said:
"The story also has the usual redemptive arc that no autobiography seems to successfully elude--at the end the dragons in the fairy tale are all slayed and everyone is smiling."

The inference seems to be that this reader at least thinks the 'usual redemptive arc' is not necessary in memoirs and autobiographies, perhaps even a bad thing? Too trite?
I thought a memoir was supposed to have an arc much like a novel, along with a climax and resolution.

What do you think?
 

Siri Kirpal

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Memoirs are indeed supposed to have a story arc. When I have talked with agents at conferences, they usually want to know what the arc is.

And if the reviewer doesn't like them, that's their problem.

No, you don't want to be trite, but you also need a story, and stories tend to have some redemption at the end.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

frimble3

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Most stories, memoirs or not, have a story arc because that is how we like our stories.
It might be that the reviewer just likes grimdark, usually under the guise of 'realism'.
It's called an 'arc', because stories go up, or go down, but how many memoirs are flat-lines? A baby is born in a small town and nothing ever happens to him or his environment, and then he dies. The End. That's not a story that's likely to sell.

Unless it's got other redeeming values: the baby is born in 'interesting times'. Sometimes he takes part in them, sometimes he merely observes, but something's got to happen to someone, or what's the point?
 

Curlz

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If Hannibal Lecter had a memoir, I'd read it ;) Even if there was no "redemption arc" in it. Or any arc. I'm sure his life would be fun to read about and that would be enough motivation to pick the memoir as a reader. But most people don't have lives full of unique events like that. A friend of mine was reading the memoir of a famous sports personality that didn't have any "redemption arc" either. The only "arc" there was that this person trained a lot and then won a few tournaments. It wasn't very exciting for me, so I wouldn't read it, even if it did have an arc. But the fans of this particular sport will read it eagerly because they are just eager to know more about this particular topic. So I don't think the arc is such a big thing.
 
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Siri Kirpal

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The arc isn't a big thing for celebrities. But most people who post here can't claim celebrity. You do still need an arc if people aren't clamoring for your story.

Note also that there's a big difference between autobiography and memoir. Autobiography is birth (and sometimes births of parents and grandparents, etc.) to whenever the person is writing it. Memoir is a slice of life: maybe a certain period of time or a particular event, maybe a life theme, or yes, those defining moments that lead you to realization (AKA an arc).

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

kohnuma

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I think the key word here is "redemptive." The redemption arc is trite but somewhat inevitable, being part of our intellectual hard-wiring ("the hero's tale," etc). That's how I read what the reviewer is saying. Of course any story has have SOME kind of arc, though it may be more like a connect-the-dots game. Otherwise it's not a story, just babbling into space.
 

Desertphile

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I just read a review of a memoir that said:
"The story also has the usual redemptive arc that no autobiography seems to successfully elude--at the end the dragons in the fairy tale are all slayed and everyone is smiling."

The inference seems to be that this reader at least thinks the 'usual redemptive arc' is not necessary in memoirs and autobiographies, perhaps even a bad thing? Too trite?
I thought a memoir was supposed to have an arc much like a novel, along with a climax and resolution.

What do you think?

Gosh, without a story arc I would not read a memoir, let alone spend two years writing one. A memoir needs to have an interesting story to tell (otherwise the memoir is crap), and that means the memoir has a specific beginning, events that flow and move the story along, and a resolution / denouement--- just like most stories.
 

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