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    « Author's Fair | Main | Memoir-Making Seminar »

    Memoirs: Factual or Emotional?

    A lot of people who set out to write a memoir feel they have to be like Joe Friday in the old TV series Dragnet. “Just the facts, Ma'am.” I think that this attitude can hamper your ability to tell  stories.

    I tell clients that facts may be more or less important, depending on the type of story you want to tell.

    One way to decide which is to ask yourself whether you want your memoir to be a life review or a reminiscence.

    A life review:

    · Tries to see one’s life as a whole, coherent narrative

    · Is factual and analytic

    · Seeks to summarize and understand

    An Example:  A military veteran trying to recall service experience might well draw upon military records and history books.

    A reminiscence:

    · Is less concerned with finding the truth than creating an atmosphere

    · Focuses more on emotions than facts

    · Is often fragmentary and partial

    An Example:  A woman trying to document experiences of domestic violence might do better tapping into the emotions rekindled by an old photograph or journal entry.

    Download this excellent discussion of life reviews and reminiscences (33 page pdf)

    Biff Barnes, Editor

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