Last updated on June 17, 2022
Recently on a Linked-In discussion group, someone made this comment:
I strongly disagree with his statement and share the following thoughts:
Memoirs are some of the most powerful pieces written today, but people are shortsighted. They don’t always see the value of first-hand accounts in the present. Without memoirs, we have history written by partial observers who bring their own worldview into play—maybe at the expense of writing with accuracy the way the events actually happened. Second-hand accounts are never as factual as first-hand stories and never as valuable for historical purposes.
Many people love reading memoirs and will look for them in libraries and bookstores. Life experiences written by people reveal more about society than any history book or journalist covering a story. I am thankful for all the memoirs written today by all sorts of people to give us a peek into the present and the past.
For example, the world never would have known of Anne Frank if she had not written her diary. She was an unknown 13-year-old kid before her father published her diary.
If you have a compelling story to tell, tell it with passion, revealing your innermost struggles and thoughts. Being “real” with the reader will make your story come alive. In my memoir Children of Dreams about the international adoption of my daughters, I was open and vulnerable. That was the right way to tell that story. I could never have fictionalized it.
I just wrote another book and this one is fiction, Seventh Dimension – The Door. In contrast with Children of Dreams, I took certain events from my own life and turned them into fantasy. I had a story to tell and the only way to tell it was as allegory and to fictionalize it. The point being, do what the story calls for and write it. Don’t let naysayers talk you out of writing your story the way you feel it needs to be told. At the end of the day, you have to live with the result and be happy with the story and the way you wrote it.
These are some thoughts I would consider: Who is your target audience? What is your purpose in writing your story? Can anyone be hurt or impacted negatively if you write your book as a memoir? If you write your story as a memoir in hopes of making money, you need to write your book as “creative nonfiction,” using fictional techniques.
For example, you need a beginning, a middle, and an end. You need to think in terms of “scenes” and “plot” and “problems” that need to be solved. The reader needs a takeaway—what can he learn from your memoir that would be meaningful or cathartic? No one wants to read someone’s boring biography.