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

  1. Barbara Macdonald January 21, 2018 at 5:21 PM #

    You have just answered a question I didn’t know I had. The difference between memoir and an autobiographical fiction. I have spent years starting to write a memoir then giving up. I was confused as to what to include. I think I understand now. ” Just the facts, nothing but the facts,” seems to be the way to write a memoir.
    Is that right or am I still confuse?

  2. Denis Ledoux January 25, 2018 at 10:04 AM #

    Yes, you seem to have it right!

    I do want to add though that “just the facts” does not preclude some guesswork on your part. For instance, it is all right to conjecture “I believe my father was never happy with his position in the company because…” In this case you are “owning” the observation and clearly attributing it to yourself. You are, of course, in a very good position to have a reasonable guess about other people in your life and their motivation. You are probably very close to “The Truth,” but you must alert the reader that this is your guess.

  3. Stephen Williams March 26, 2019 at 5:24 PM #

    I’m a little unclear about the boundaries between the two. I’m writing some parts of my memoir with speech. It is impossible for me to remember the exact words – some of them are from 20 year old memories – but I’m making sure the conversation is true to my memory and the people involved. I’m certainly not exaggerating or describing my surroundings or smells or the like, only my feelings about what is happening. Do you think this is acceptable in a memoir?

  4. Denis Ledoux March 27, 2019 at 9:19 AM #

    Thanks for posting. A viable solution to your comment lies in the indirect quote or dialog. Here are two of my posts of indirect dialog that may be useful:
    Good luck with your writing.

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