To protect others, not myself

It’s funny to me that so many people want to claim their work as memoir when it’s really fiction, I guess because I’m the opposite. Does hiding behind the label of fiction make me a coward? (And is that any better or worse than being a liar?)

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  1. RTW

    Maybe they’re making up fictional experiences because their life is somewhat banal… whereas if you’ve already had interesting experiences, you don’t feel the need to “own” the story as much to inflate your ego? I don’t think it makes you a liar or a coward at all.

    • RTW’s recent blog post: Guilt-Free Indulging: Spring Rolls

  2. I was about to post exactly what RTW said! If I were to write a memoir I would most definitely have to lie – cats and cooking and selling toilets isn’t really a great plot.

  3. I guess with fiction, you can kind of exaggerate your experiences to make them even more interesting than they are already. l)

    • Katy’s recent blog post: Things I Love

  4. good questions. i think writers are brave when they delve into memoirs..

    • floreta’s recent blog post: Watery Wednesday: Coast

  5. Marci

    I find your title intriguing. As we all know (you especially given circumstances during college), thinly veiled “fictional” accounts of real life protect no one. It’s something I would be careful of in your work if you are really trying to protect someone other than yourself.

    As a non-writer, I have a controversial stance on fake memoirs which is “so what?” A lot of these controversial books are well-written, so who cares if they are real? In fact, they are probably the MOST talented fiction writers because they create a situation/world/etc that you believe. Fiction, non-fiction, memoirs… they all help teach us something about life and help us even if they aren’t “real” (i think) so if the writing is good and the message is on, I dont care if you lie to me.

  6. RTW-
    I think you’re right, they lie because their real life stories wouldn’t sell as well. I don’t think mine would either (haha!) but I don’t want to deceive people.

    Cats cooking on toilets? What’s not to love?!

    Exactly! And you can achieve the kinds of resolution that real life doesn’t always provide. But then, why not label it fiction? (I’m asking the liars, not you. :P)

    Oh, I do too! And I don’t think I’m brave enough, yet, to do it myself.

    I’m all for a good story, but I guess my question for the fake memoir-ists is, why not just call it fiction? Of course this is coming from a selfish point of view because when their fake memoirs sell well, they make it harder for fiction writers to succeed.

    The other issue is that when you call something horrible fake, even if it’s true there’s the possibility of denial. (That’s what I see as the protection, however thin it may be.) Versus the other way — if you call something horrible true — if it’s fake, you are painting an unfairly negative portrait. It’s sort of like innocent until proven guilty vs. guilty until proven innocent. That to me (and the law) is worse. But of course, not everyone would agree.

    (And of course few people would complain if they are portrayed more nicely, either in fiction or memoir, than they really are, haha, so that’s not much of a problem.)

  7. Thanks for the heads up on the agent’s site. I would have figured agent’s are so bombarded with potential clients that one would not have a blog. I’m going to read him this weekend and see what type of advice he has.

    Memoir writing comes more naturally to me than fiction. I always figured it was a lack of imagination or talent on my part. I can coin what I know, reflect on it, but have a harder time making real that which is not.

    • Pseudo’s recent blog post: Money in the Bank: Numero Uno

  8. Nathan’s site is pretty fun in addition to being helpful, so it’s become quite popular. I think they ARE often too busy, but some make time for it because it leads to (a) better queries, and (b) more awareness of them vs. other agents.

    Oh I don’t think it’s lack of imagination or talent at all, though I suppose I can understand your reasoning/viewpoint. The thing is, you ARE making something real that isn’t — at least, that isn’t to any of your readers until you tell us! And I happen to know that you are quite good at it. :)

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