Liberties with facts ultimately, I believe, undermine the authority of a memoirist to present his/her life experience as a lived (vs. fictionalized) version of the mythic journey. The lived hero’s tale must figure at the center of every memoir if the story is to rise above a chronology, a dirge or an encomium.
DL: the following is an adaptation of a reply I made on LinkedIn to comments about how writing autobiographical fiction was pretty much the same as memoir. You will read that I disagree strongly. (If you are a member of LinkedIn, I would love to have a LinkedIn connection with you if we are not already connected.
Should I write memoir or autobiographical fiction?
I sometimes get asked this question and I have to confess that my reaction is firm. They are not the same.
There is a clear difference—a chasm really—between the choice of memoir or autobiographical fiction. While one has chosen to write one or the other, one does not have a choice to call one by the name of another. The writer owes it to the reader to be clear. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Is memoir fiction? I emphatically don’t agree that memoir is fiction. Although a memoir invariably uses fiction techniques—and we will look at one in this post it must be an as-much-as-possible true accounting of an experience.
Memoir or Autobiographical Fiction?
Memoir or autobiographical fiction—what’s the difference? I have been reading a memoir that has been doing well here in Maine (it’s by an excellent Maine writer)–I can’t vouch for its reach in the rest of the country. It was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt so I can only presume it is receiving support elsewhere.
It’s an interesting book, very well-written in terms of style and organization, but my nagging doubt [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
I urge all readers to commit to telling the truth—100% of it—in their memoir. It’s the only way you will get to the truth—and as they say, the telling the truth will set you free.