How can you write a true life story or memoir and know it is the truth?
Okay, a couple of facts here…
- Memoir writing is based on writing from memory
- Memory is subjective.
So what does this mean to me and my memoir? First of all, as log as you write the story the way you remember it — it is the truth. Will others remember it differently? Count on it.
Think of it this way…
Have you ever told your side of an argument to a neutral party and had your argument partner tell their side to the same neutral party and noticed distinct differences? Yup, I have.My daddy always used to say “the truth is somewhere in the middle”. Meaning, each tale told is the truth to each of the involved parties — as they truly remember it. However, the ultimate truth is usually parts of each story.
It is human nature to embellish, exaggerate and to make ourselves look good when we recall a story. In memoir writing, we do this very thing. Is it lying? Hardly. It’s the truth as we remember it.
Two People – Two Stories
If two people went through the exact same experience and were asked to write about it, you would probably end up with two different versions but the underlying theme the same.Ask a fisherman, “How big was the fish?” Ask a golfer, “How long was the putt you sunk?” Ask a child, “How big was the monster in the closet?” Be prepared for some exaggeration but know that is how it truly felt to them.
Our emotions play a large part in our memories. It’s the element in the story that others can relate too. It’s the reason reality television is so popular — society wants to relate in some way to each other.
Telling your story with the emotion raw and almost visible is the draw to readers. Should it be the truth? Yes, as you truly remember it in your thoughts and feelings.Now, don’t tell me remember that Christmas Day is on December 15th — I won’t buy that. You can’t change indisputable facts and should never try. You will lose credibility. But, NO ONE can tell you how you felt or how something affected you — you, alone know that story.
Fear and the Memoir
Are you afraid of what others in your story will think? Are you afraid of telling the truth for fear of hurting someone? You really have to put that behind you and write the story that needs to be written. Change the names to protect the innocent (and not so innocent), write a disclaimer to include with your story or book. The gist could be something like:
“This is the way I remember my story. Others may remember details differently — it’s their right. But, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Even if more poetically written — that is the gist. The most important element is to start writing!
Go… now… start!
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