Sunday, April 1, 2012

Memoir as fiction

My book is mostly true, or at least partially true. I won't know how much is true until I finish it. My book started out as a memoir about my mother, but after numerous "I was told this story, but there's another version I heard...", "I don't remember what happened, but it was probably like this...", and "I'm not sure how she felt, but I assume...", I decided to use the truths I knew, and add fictional elements to support the core events of the story. For the record, my book is a work of fiction, although most of the major incidents are true.

My mother had an interesting life, especially from the ages of 14 to 30. I asked her many times to share stories of her life, but she would not talk about the past, not even stories of her childhood. About the only thing she ever told me about was growing up across the street from Hank Williams (she was two years older), playing at his house as a child, and a little about my grandmother.

When I first started writing my book, I used made up names. After some thought, I decided there was no need to change the names. With the exception of a few characters, the characters in my book were real people, and I've used their real names. This decision was made to honor those I write about, and to draw me closer to those I knew and loved. I am related to most of the major character, and they are all now deceased. The characters are presented as close as I remember them, but as a work of fiction, dialogue, character attributes and personalities have been modified to fit the tone and shape of the story.

Are you writing a novel? Are there elements of true stories? Have you used names for characters to honor or recognize someone?

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