Friday, March 23, 2007

Mulling Memoirs

What made you decide to turn your experience with your friend’s death into a novel, rather than write a memoir? I’m working on a memoir project, but I keep wondering if it wouldn’t be a better read as a novel based on my experiences. It might be a cop-out though, because then I could change names to protect the guilty.

Funny - I never once considered writing my life story.


For several reasons: 1) my life story isn't that interesting. These days, memoirs have to have a very strong hook to them to sell. Sure, everyone thinks they have a story to tell, but it's sort of akin to how you think your dreams are totally interesting and weird, and then when you relay them to friends, their eyes glaze over. Publishers aren't interested in your memoir unless you're like, the person who discovered the cure for AIDS in her basement or something. 2) I have no interest in putting my friend's struggle with cancer up for public consumption in the way that a memoir would. Really, that's her story to tell, and I'm not the one to tell it. And, getting back to point A, losing a close friend to cancer isn't such a unique story that I think publishers would be chomping at the bit for a memoir. At least, not as I could write it. Maybe if I had a more exotic life, and this was just one facet, then sure, but not as of now. 3) These days, you better be damn sure that every last word in your memoir is truthful (see: Frey, James), and I wasn't at all interested in telling a factual story. What I love about writing fiction is that I can pull something completely out of my imagination and find a way to make it work. I get to breathe in experiences through my characters that I've never had the opportunity to explore in my real life, and for me, that's exhilarating. The "creating something from nothing" is probably what I enjoy most about the process of fiction, and since writing a memoir offers none of this, I ain't interested.

Though...hmmm....it should would be fun to run fear into the hearts of my ex-boyfriends when the project was announced. On second thought.... :)

So, what say you readers? Why do you choose fiction over memoirs or vice versa?

5 comments:

Angela Giles Klocke said...

I went back and forth from fiction to memoir, not sure how I wanted to tell my story. I finally settled on memoir for greater impact due to the subject.

My tastes in fiction vary, but I'll choose memoir depending on the subject. I'm not necessarily interested in, say, a president's life story, but something that is like every day life would attract my attention.

Amy said...

Hi, Allison! A fellow FLXer checking in.

Fiction over memoir--that's what I'd choose, and definitely because you have far more license to do what needs to be done. Let's face it--real life doesn't always read well. Writing a novel gives you the room to make the changes you need to make, and in some cases, allows you the distance you need to tell the story properly.

just my two cents.

Lisa said...

Unless it's an especially bizarre story like "Running With Scissors" or "Dry" by Augusten Burroughs or the memoir has been written famous person, who I must also find fascinating, I tend not to be interested in reading memoirs. I always assume that most of the character driven fiction I enjoy incorporates many autobiographical elements and I tend to like to write things I enjoy reading. I prefer to write fiction and my writing does does tend to draw a great deal from experiences I've had in my own life because it's a wellspring of information I have ready access to, but by fictionalizing, I can improve on my own stories and alter them enough to avoid being disowned by friends and family members who may think they recognize themselves.

kathie said...

Hey Allison, it's been awhile, but I'm pleased to be back to your site and find your book cover ready to go! It looks great. I prefer fiction to memoir for the poetic liscence. Everyone's life is interesting in some way, but it's the exaggeration of fiction makes people take notice. ON the other hand, I myself love the ordinary look into the details of regular life. But I'm not the poss of publishing, you know? Glad to be back.

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