Memoirs and Lying: Crossing the Line

Each term I teach a memoir writing class, the question of truth always comes up. Students generally agree that if one writes memoir mostly in scenes, then dialogue and other aspects might need to be created. It’s impossible to remember every word spoken, unless it’s been recorded or it’s really important. Even then a writer may choose to omit long exchanges about the weather, ums and ers, and other detritus.

Where should we draw the line? Is it OK to use fabricated dialogue if we remain true to the character speaking it? How about composite characters? The answers will vary according to the work. Remain consistent with the Truth of the matter, meaning its spirit, what you remember as the meaning of a particular incident.

Writing Tip for Today: Examine an event you are writing about for memoir. Does it hold true for the spirit of the memory? If not, you as the writer may indeed have crossed the line.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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