“What if I can’t remember?”

Michael asks, “I have this story I have created that has the essence of what actually occurred. The place is real, the event happened and the participants were all there. However, since I can’t remember actual details, I made them all up. Would/could this be considered memoir?   Is there such thing as Memoir Fiction? How far you can go with memoirs?”

Here’s how I answered Michael– Where is the line between “what actually occurred” and “I can’t remember the actual details”?  At face value those two statements contradict each other. There’s your quandary right there.

I personally think that, if the place, people, and action come from your memory rather than your imagination, it’s a true story, i.e. memoir. If you need to supply details from imagination to flesh out the remembered story so that it makes sense, entertains, communicates–that’s what being a writer is all about.

I do think published memoirs should include a disclaimer that states where the author stands, something like the note with which Jill Ker Conway concludes her first memoir, Road from Coorain:

My brother, Berry Innes Ker, has helped me as generously in preparing this narrative as he has through our lifetime of shared projects. The interpretations and any errors are entirely my own. The names of some persons and places have been changed.

Here’s a really interesting read by author/memoir writing teacher Mimi Schwartz that directly addresses the question, “What if I can’t remember”…

-Sarah White

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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