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The art of the fictional memoir


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#1 Cammy May

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 12:12 AM

I've had some deep-seated problems with my memoir from the get-go, and resisted writing it in the first place.
To make is simple, I have people I want to protect. So there is a level of "not totally Truth and Fact" to start with.

But it's been suggested that I "fictionalize" it. Easy enough. Does nobody stick in a great story they heard from their granny or neighbor?

But I'm wondering just how far, or legitimate that grey area is.. What is "creative non-fiction". Can a memoir be "creative"?

I started out wanting to work straight up from my innocent church childhood to my current wicked ways, but it was suggested that maybe I should put some racier material from the present or near past in to keep interest up. It's also the way my brain seems to want to work it, things sort of pop up to get written about at random points from the past.

As soon as I started moving out of chronology, it immediately started getting into my head to "embellish" the mess out of it. Not like making up events, but sort of arranging furniture a bit.

If I was going to do a novel out of it, I'd have to have some characters that stuck around, which my real life has almost none of. So, why not stage dress the memoir a little.

I have zero idea what sort of expectations or ethics apply to this.

Maybe you do.

Oh, you can see the memoir at http://cammymay.com
So far everything has turned about as I expected.

#2 mwsinclair

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 11:23 AM

In general, "embellishing" memoir is frowned upon.

#3 TonyLuv

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 02:51 PM

I too have had this issue. My quest for clarity took me on a spider web search of articles and resources (AgentQuery being only one of them).

I initially deduced Creative Nonfiction to be an umbrella genre that includes, but is not limited to the following sub genres: Literary Journalism; Literary Nonfiction; Narrative Nonfiction; Imaginative Nonfiction; Personal Essay; Personal Narrative; Lyric Essay; and Literary Memoir? When I queried agents who seemed to define Creative Nonfiction as Literary Journalism; i.e. the use of a unique narrative voice to iterate facts in an interesting manner (textbooks, how-tos, historical), I became confused once again.


Now fictional memoir. I like that! Compositing experiences helped me eliminate tedium from the storyline and intensify the emotional impact in my truth-based storytelling. And compositing by definition makes it fiction. Here is the link to an article I adore. Questions answered beget more questions.

http://www.thedailyb...as-fiction.html

#4 Cammy May

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    I would prefer to be sole proprietor of a series of novels.

    They can reject me, blacklist me, ignore me... but they can't take Tara away from me.

Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:06 PM

Frowned on by whom? Readers?
I wonder.

Very interesting link, Tony (may I call you "Tony"? Just calling you "Luv" seems so forward :-) Thanks for new input into my hopper.

i recently reviewed a novel called "Hippie Boy: A Girl's Story" that I said read like a novel. But, like that guy in your link, I felt a little unsatisfied at the end and could see several places where tidying up would have helped.

The more I inquire into this, the more confusing it gets.
I'm thinking towards keeping the memoir fairly straight (and once you say "fairly" it means there's something other than a sharp line) but spinning off a series of fictionalized ebooks. Erotica books, to be exact. I'm afraid I've just had that kind of life.

Another writer suggested something that would be fun, a kind of "Walter Mitty" thng where you spin tales, then go back and say what really happened. I don't think it would work for me, but could be hugely useful for somebody. I get the impression most writers are rewriting their lives anyway.
So far everything has turned about as I expected.

#5 mwsinclair

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:38 PM

Well, the publishers of James Frey's "memoir" were sued for fraud, so some readers frowned upon it, as I suspect the publishers did too.

#6 TonyLuv

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 04:15 PM

Sometimes nonfiction seems like it should be fiction. In my case, that statement is true. True stories have a way of not being so tidy and so easily wrapped up and tied in a bow.

#7 Cammy May

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    They can reject me, blacklist me, ignore me... but they can't take Tara away from me.

Posted 09 July 2012 - 04:52 AM

Yes, as mentioned in the other thread, I know about James Frey and the lawsuit.
And as also mentioned, there are a lot of different ways that could lie between fact and fiction and that's what I'm interest in discussing.

I hear you Tony. I'm wondering if there's a solution to that.
So far everything has turned about as I expected.

#8 TonyLuv

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 01:22 PM

And I commiserate with you. I read a little of your memoir and got why this point is so important to you.

#9 Cammy May

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    They can reject me, blacklist me, ignore me... but they can't take Tara away from me.

Posted 11 July 2012 - 12:41 AM

Thanks, Tony. So far, so good, but looking down the road I can see room to wiggle it around a bit and maybe do something more interesting.

I'm also considering just playing it straight and doing a sideline of embellished erotica.

"Reality Smut" :-)
So far everything has turned about as I expected.

#10 Jean Oram

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 08:56 PM

How about a fictionalized memoir? I've heard of a few things like that popping up these days due to the whole "what is the truth" in a memoir issue.

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#11 Cammy May

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    I would prefer to be sole proprietor of a series of novels.

    They can reject me, blacklist me, ignore me... but they can't take Tara away from me.

Posted 15 July 2012 - 10:39 AM

Really? Now that's kind of what I was talking about. Very interesting, Jean.

It's also been suggested that something like this could be easily handled by setting it in an "envelope" that isolates it from Non-fiction. Like a prologue with a fictional editor commenting on this memoir he found.

Can you remember any "fictionalized memoir" titles that you've heard?

Something that occurred to me is that a lot of biographies are pretty fictionalized, I remember reading one about Marilyn Monroe that has some private bedroom scenes with her husbands that read like steamy romance and would have been impossible to authenticate.
So far everything has turned about as I expected.

#12 Jean Oram

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 08:16 PM

Jeanette Walls' retelling of her grandmother's life was considered a fictionalized memoir (although maybe not so much memoir since it was her g-ma). It was called Half-Broke Horses and is classified as "fiction" in that you will not find it in the nonfiction area of the library.

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#13 Cammy May

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    I would prefer to be sole proprietor of a series of novels.

    They can reject me, blacklist me, ignore me... but they can't take Tara away from me.

Posted 15 July 2012 - 10:20 PM

Funny how when you go lookiing for things, they start popping up even where you aren't looking. I just this minute ran into an online ad for a book by Jenny Lawson called "Le'ts Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir"
I think that's close to the concept I'm grasping for here.
So far everything has turned about as I expected.

#14 Jean Oram

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 11:45 AM

Awesome! And it is crazy isn't it? I've had things like that happen lately. You must be on the right track!

I love connecting with and helping other AQCers outside this forum as well. You can find me all over the place!

If you are looking for more about writing, you may find my blog helpful, as well as my Twitter feed:

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If you are a parent, you might be interested in my ideas on growing happy, healthy kids who'll thrive in this ever changing world (includes crafts, activities, games, articles, and fun!):
*Twitter *Blog *Pinterest *Facebook

 

Check it out! I write stuff (www.jeanoram.com):
 

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#15 Tipram

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 03:48 AM

To Cammy May:

Although I'm not sure I'm answering your question, I'd like to mention that in France, the daughter of Maurice Herzog, the mountaineer who climbed the Annapurna in 1950, wrote what she claims to be a novel, although it is her family story.
To journalists who asked her why, she answered that several parts of the book were not about facts, but described her perception of a given event. The "novel" was published last September by Grasset, a major publishing house.

#16 Revo

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 08:12 AM

Memoir or not, it'll need some form of structure to make it coherent. Is this a morality tale? Is there a satisfying conclusion to the tension of events? Who is it meant to enlighten?

Why not fictionalize the whole thing, drawing upon your experiences to color the novel? It sounds like you have some paint to add to the pallette.

http://www.amazon.co...ds=Abaddon Arms

 

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#17 Cammy May

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    They can reject me, blacklist me, ignore me... but they can't take Tara away from me.

Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:41 PM

Interesting, Tipran. Kind of the other direction on this. Not quite a "roman a clef", though, I guess.

That's certainly an inviting way to approach it, Revo.
Actually, I kind of stumbled into an avenue on this. I'm doing a series of eroitica stories that are pretty much straight up accounts. But don't have to get billed as "memoirs". The difference between them and the "Dirty Undies" serial memoir is (duh) they're nastier.
So far everything has turned about as I expected.




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