Top Menu

Archive | Tell the Truth

To tell the truth in a memoir may seem simple, but in practice it is almost never so.

It is, first of all, not clear what the truth may be: yours or someone else’s? Then also, the truth may be submerged beneath layers of pain that can prompt you to hide it from everyone—and yourself.

The easy truth is —well—easy! The hard truth isn’t.

When I suggest you must tell the truth, I don’t mean the easy truth like “I had a brother and a sister,” but the hard truth that makes you flinch, a truth like “my mother disliked her kids—especially me” or “I was abused as a child.”

While not everyone has painful memories that are difficult to share, many people do. If this is you, I think you know what your hard truth is. Consider those aspects of your life you don’t particularly feel like sharing. That is, those are hard to share, but when you tell the truth of those memories, you are likely to feel so much better later and to have produced a much better memoir.

Truth and Pain

When you tell the truth, you may find yourself immersed in pain. Perhaps you need to read the posts of dealing with pain in memoir writing. I do not believe that you need to hurt yourself when you tell the truth but you must learn to own your  life experience and to be honest about it.

What I have found in my workshops is that other writers almost always pick up when a writer has decided not to tell the truth and writes inaccuracies or “whitewashing” into a text. It somehow stands out… so don’t do it. You won’t get away with it. Most readers will sense there is a problem—even if they don’t know what it is.

In conclusion

If you avoid telling the truth, you may have an easier time in the writing but you won’t be satisfied in the end with the memoir you have written.

Read the posts below, learn some useful techniques and be brave about telling it like it was.

4ProvenWays

Have you ever succumbed to this memoir shortcut?

“I just added a little bit of fiction to move the story along,” you say, to explain a memoir shortcut you have just taken, joining the ranks of such pseudo memoirist as James Frey in A Million Pieces? Or, perhaps the ranks of Frank McCourt who fictionalized long dialogs in Angela’s Ashes. (No one remembers […]

sad mature businessman thinking about problems in living room

Writing Negative Experiences into a Memoir

Of course, your memoir will have a lot to say about your family, your relatives and your community. How do you write about them when your feelings are not necessarily positive? Do you omit any mention and “make nice?” How do you avoid being mired in the quicksand of destructive emotions as you are writing negative experiences into a memoir?

When writing my childhood memoir, French Boy, I had some sorrow surrounding my father and some simply critical feelings about my mother. In short, I was writing negative emotions into a memoir—mine.

Getting some insight on my memoir characters

Now, don’t get me wrong: both of them were loving, caring people. I’m not writing here about abusive people. No I’m writing about human beings just like we all are, human beings who had some failings and moments when they were not their best. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

Denis-family-1

Writing more Deeply: The pain in telling the truth

My new memoir, French Boy (due out in late 2022), is about my childhood. Much about this time in my life has a context that is unique and consequently different from that of my contemporaries. This memoir has a place in the world of memoirs, and I want it to find that place, but writing it has also brought up some pain which I did not want. Once again, I found out that there is pain in telling the truth.

My parents were thoughtful and loving people so their behavior towards me is not an issue. I am not writing about a reprehensible or shameful experience. I am dealing with a more average pain that is both little for the world and big for me.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

telling the truth

Solving Problems of Telling the Truth in Your Memoir

When telling the truth, how much of what happened do you have to tell? At what point does withholding the truth become a lie? For instance, in all her famous diaries, as Anais Nin celebrated the freedoms of her life as an artist, she never once mentioned that she was bankrolled by a husband. True, she could not mention his name or details of his life because he had refused her legal permission to do so in print. But wouldn’t the truth have been better served if she had mentioned the working husband who paid her bills and made her artistic life free of financial constraints possible?

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

work with and through pain

Work With or Through Pain: Writing Painful Memories

In this video, Work With or Through Pain: Writing Through Painful Memories, I talk about writing through painful memories. Pain is often a barrier to memoir writing. Who wants to revisit difficult times? Although delving into the past is a generally pleasant experience and promotes healing and growth, it can also be painful.

surviving childhood abuse

Surviving Childhood Abuse: A Writer’s Experience

Congratulations to Denise Brown on the publication of her book, Transcending Darkness: A Memoir of Abuse and Grace. I recently had the opportunity to interview Denise about her experience writing her book on surviving childhood abuse.  I am pleased to share her experience. To read Part 2, click here. To read Part 3, click here.—DL

Denis Ledoux: Can you tell our readers what your book is about and why you were impelled to write it? What was driving you to spend the time, energy and money to get this book out into the world?

Denise Brown: Transcending Darkness is a memoir about the abuse that I experienced during my childhood. Abuse led me on a path of self-destruction. This path encountered God and his mercy in unexpected ways.  It sounds like a crazy story, but I began writing my memoir when I was in college after having an incredible dream. An angel brought me to visit three teenage girls who were suffering emotionally. Each of them had been reading a book and were crying. I realized that the book was giving them a glimmer of hope for their futures. Then the angel revealed to me that it was my book that I had not yet written that they were reading, and that I was being given the choice of helping them or not. After that, I couldn’t get the dream out of my head! I began writing what would become Transcending Darkness a few days later.

DL: Can you tell us how long it took from the time you conceived the book to the time you had it published? How many years did you spend in active writing? Were there long breaks in between active writing periods? If so, what happened to get you writing again? Writing about surviving childhood abuse must have been difficult. emotionally

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

truth in memoir

“Making Nice” Will Trip You Up

We all have family stories that we have heard over and over again. When they are told in family gatherings, no one expects any contradiction. After all, the stories are the “truth” about someone in the family but “making nice”—not telling the truth in memoir—will trip you up.

How do you write truth in memoir writing?

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?