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”).