Writing Memoir: the Side Effects of Telling the Truth

“There is a ripple effect each time a memoir is published, and while the memoirist cannot fully prepare for it, he or she should expect it.” ~ Anthony D’Aries in Writing Lessons: Memoir’s Truth and Consequences

file0001997823143Several years ago, I was pushing my daughter in the stroller while on a walk, and I came upon a story. Near my house, I passed a young girl sitting on her front steps. She was skinny, maybe thirteen. She looked bored. Then, I heard people I can only assume were her parents yelling at each other inside the house, their voices loud enough so that every word resounded as clear as the intonation behind it. I slowed my pace and gave a tentative wave. When the girl glanced up at me, I thought I saw the faint trace of a black eye.

At first, I kept on walking, doubting myself but wondering. Then, I turned around and asked if everything was okay. She looked at me like I was crazy. Like everything going on around her, behind her, and in spite of her, was just another day in Normal. Parents argue, they yell. This young girl waits it out.

Impressed by the image and by her indifference (and maybe by a little of my own guilt in walking away), I wrote “Red Velvet Sunday.”

Later, I had the opportunity to read that story on the radio, and I shared the link to the episode with family and friends. Even though the story was fiction, someone close to me said they hoped the story wasn’t born out of real life experiences. “Not a bit!” I said, completely surprised, and I wondered what they and others might think if I did write bits and pieces of truth.

When writing memoir, facts are set down easily enough; it’s everything in between—and the potential effects afterward—that presents the challenge. Andrew D’Aries warns the memoirist in his quote above, but a write can only prepare for so much.

I’m talking truth in memoir at Write It Sideways this week in a post that’s generating some great discussion. I hope you’ll stop by and leave your thoughts.

Writers love dialogue.

Read it here: Telling the Truth in Memoir: More Than Just Facts

*Photo credit: biberta on morguefile.com

 

Christi

About Christi

Christi Craig is a native Texan living in Wisconsin, working by day as a sign language interpreter and moonlighting as a writer, teacher, and editor. Her stories and essays have appeared online and in print, and she received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train's Family Matters Contest, 2010. You can send comments or questions via her contact page.
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