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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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avoid cliches and stereotypes

Avoid Cliches and Stereotypes

If you do not avoid cliches and stereotypes, you will undermine the unique and personal feel of your memoir. Cliches and stereotypes place people in often erroneous and certainly indefensible categories. As short-hand ways of writing and speaking, they reflect ready-made thoughts and adversely affect the ways we relate to our families and friends as unique individuals and how we write about them.

“She was a mother hen—you know how mothers are!”

“My father had a heart of gold.”

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interesting dialog

Writing Effective and Interesting Dialog

Dialog allows the reader to hear the voice of the character. It is an opportunity to use regionalisms and particularities of speech. Even to write in pauses if that was typical of the person. “Ain’t much wrong with it,” my grandfather would say…

rockstack

Eight Reasons to Share the Inner You

Our lives are composed not only of facts and dates but also of dreams, expectations–realized or denied–and hopes. You are not alone in having lived an inner life. Others too have experienced much of what you felt and dreamed for yourself and are likely to identify with some, or even much, of what you say. […]

manwriting2x

Telling the Truth About your Life

In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with subtle—and not so subtle—messages about who we ought to be, it is a bold statement to take a stand for personal truth and authenticity.

The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.

—Sam Keen, Writer

One of the most transformative statements an individual can make is to tell his/her story with honesty and objectivity. At its best, this is what a memoir is—a statement that declares “this is who I am, who I think of myself as being.”

Lest you think that telling the truth is only about revealing scandals and unmasking abuses, let me assure you that it is more often about smaller issues, issues more within the realm of the everyday experience. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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exact word

Why Use Precise Speech?

Many memoir writers are under the impression that you need to have an extensive vocabulary to write. An extensive vocabulary can only help you—if by “extensive” you mean many precise language, not just big words.

Precise words are specific and not vague and ineffective like nice, awful, big, OK. “She was nice” is vague. “She understood different points of view” is specific and precise language.

“He was awfully big” is vague. You might write instead: “My father measured six foot five and weighed 275 pounds.”

Don’t write: “The job was OK.” Write: “The job was in my field of competence, but its salary was inadequate and its requirements did not challenge me.”

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