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Archive | Memoir, Autobiography and Autobiographical Fiction

While memoir and autobiography share much and can be considered as “cousins,” I want to state clearly and emphatically  that neither memoir nor autobiography are related to autobiographical fiction. Autobiographical fiction is —well—fiction while memoir and autobiography are non-fiction.

There is a clear difference—a chasm really—between the choice to write memoir or to write autobiographical fiction.

While one has a choice to write one or the other, one does not have the choice to call one by the name of the other. The writer owes it to the reader to be clear in how a piece is approached. Non-fiction and fiction are not the same.

The post below will help you to explore what I mean by my insistence that there is a difference between memoir and autobiographical fiction, between non-fiction and fiction.

undermining your memoir

Are Your Details Destroying Your Memoir? How to Avoid These Memoir Writing Mistakes

Are you making this memoir writing mistake that may be undermining your lifestory?

The following is based largely on a response I wrote to a comment on a post called But is it a Memoir? Rereading my comment, I realized it is of value to all the new readers to this blog since then—and to readers who may have forgotten or never read it.

A Memoir Serves as a Guide to the Reader

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. In the nameless book I quoted in But is it a Memoir?, too many paragraphs erode confidence in the memoirist’s fidelity to what happened (the lived experience) and create a sense of fictionalization–of choices to nurture the drama of the story (by making things up) over decisions to explore only what happened in view of arriving at an understanding/appreciation of the lived experience.

If one accepts that fiction begins with feeling/insight (what we might call “theme”–example: “life is hard”) and ends up with plot line, characters and setting which will hold the writer’s insight for the reader, then one can grasp that fiction is based a priori on the author’s “take.” In a very real and different way, memoir begins with plot, characters and setting and proceeds to theme (“wow, that life as it was lived was hard”).

Details can throw the reader off.

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Memoir or Autobiographical Fiction

Which to Write: Memoir or Autobiographical Fiction? There is a Difference!

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. ]

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memoir fiction

Memoir Versus Fiction, or 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 memoir in this post, it must be an as-much-as-possible true accounting of an experience. I must confess to not seeing a problem with the idea of memoir versus fiction. Memoir IS NOT fiction!

A strength of fiction is its ability—when it is done right—to place us in the story, to enable us to get out of our “present” and enter into the time of the story. The memoir writer has to aim for the same level of involvement. In that sense, there is again no conflict of memoir versus fiction.

In many cases, this involves removing the narrator from our field of attention.

An easy mistake to correct

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difference between a memoir and an autobiography

The Difference between a Memoir and an Autobiography

The difference between  a memoir and an autobiography can be rather minimal—or fairly large.

“So what is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography?” you may persist in asking as so many people do. Perhaps they are masking their diffidence about writing, wanting to “get it right.”

Practically speaking, for most people, there is no difference between a memoir and an autobiography. In common speech, the terms are interchangeable.

People say, “I’m writing an autobiography” or, “I’m writing a memoir.” (It’s the word memoir that has grown not the word autobiography that has shrunk.)

But, technically (or perhaps in the historical meaning of the two words), there is a difference between a memoir and an autobiography.

Two definitions

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memoir or autobiographical fiction

Fiction and memoir writing: When Is It not a Memoir?

Fiction and memoir writing—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. ]

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