1. alter-ego
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    alter-ego Banned

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    Another autobiography question.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by alter-ego, Apr 4, 2011.

    Is it possible to have had too much adventure in your life?

    I’ve made a list of all the things I’d like to include in my autobiography, but if I wrote about them all, the book would probably be 3 times too long for most people to want to read. I’m also worried about how it spans time. To cover nearly 50 years of someone’s life you have to get through a lot of periods where not much was going on. I’m starting to wonder if maybe a semi autobiographical approach could be better. I could condense the events, and use a little poetic license to the crop the story into a more manageable size, at the same time keeping the action going all the way through.

    What problems might I encounter with this style?
    Thoughts please?
     
  2. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Even in nonfiction or autobiography, you still need to find a story to tell. Just writing about things because 'they really happened' isn't a good enough reason. Find a theme you want to go with, find the story you want to tell, and then pick out the best of these adventures that tells that story.

    Autobiography means the events depicted happened, not that every event in your life is covered in full. It's not poetic license cutting out stuff that isn't relevant or necessary for the overall story you're tying to tell or point you're trying to make, it's just good writing.

    If I ate a banana for each meal yesterday, it isn't suddenly only semi-autobiographical if I only tell you I ate a banana for dinner. It's just not being tedious.

    So, if you want the overall story to be one of overcoming all odds, you'll want to pick out events that build toward that message. So the time you had severe cravings for bananas and ate them for every meal will probably not be relevant, and should be cut, even though it happened.
     
  3. alter-ego
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    alter-ego Banned

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    you lost me with the whole banana thing.
     
  4. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps gives us an idea of the sort of adventures and events you're referring to and then perhaps folk might be able to give you more help.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can write more than one - Paul O'Grady only got to age 18 with his first one lol John Barrowman has now done two.

    Don't often read them but those two were fun.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    true... if you have too much for one book, do it in parts... e.g., 'my life: part one'; 'my life: part two'...

    or as a series of 'memoirs' such as david niven did with his wickedly funny 'the moon's a balloon' and 'bring on the empty horses'...
     
  7. alter-ego
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    alter-ego Banned

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    Elgaisma and Mammamia, the problem I have with that, is I want it to have a beginning and and end. By that I don't mean I plan to kill myself when I finish! But I want to write specifically about the time period from when I left the UK and went to the US, to the time I finally left the US. And within that period of 27 years, way too much happened.

    The original idea is for the book to be about "My America." I'd never meant to stay for 27 years and only had a 6 month visitors visa. Through various means I managed to get a SSN, (that came back to haunt me when the government decided I should enlist!) but I was still never legally there, so became sort of stuck there. For 3 years I repo'd cars and had many adventures, worked for a Chicago mobster and another one in NJ. Snuck into NASA to repo a car, repo'd a car from a woman that I started dating, repo'd a Porsche and got into a 6 car race through the freeways of LA, was stopped by immigration in TX and managed to put on a good enough American accent that they believed my story that I was from Boston and let me go, and many more similar adventures.

    The Repo stories alone could make a book, but like I say I want to the focus to be about my whole experience in the US. I eventually had to quit the repo job. I had so many speeding tickets that if I got caught again, I'd be going to jail. like many other rejects I ended up in Key West. A tiny island at the very end of America where everyone was a bit off kilter. 6 years there and another book worth of adventures. When I finally left the keys I moved to a city in the south and settled down, but not without more adventures, starting with an affair with the wife of a local millionaire who had enough connections that he had the chief of police trump up charges against me and have me thrown in jail. I constantly ran battles with the cops in that town, some I won some I lost, all while still being totally illegal and they never found out. During my time in this city I built up a successful construction company, got married..for a year. Went to court god knows how many times fighting various causes, was hob nobbing with state senators and city councilors, it goes on and on. Over 27 years, there's over 80 relationships that have all had various levels of meaning and brought either drama, love or fear! to my life. How do I filter those?

    So you see, that's how I'm stuck with a clear direction I want to go in. Do I filter it down and just leave out bits, do I cut and paste, so I can skip some of the non eventful years. Do I just focus on one aspect? I just can't figure out a direction.
     
  8. alter-ego
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    alter-ego Banned

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    I need to go back and read those books. I vaguely remember my mom reading them to me when I was a kid.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just keep in mind that 'too much of a good [or bad] thing' is always a bad thing, when it comes to a book... so pare down each 'set' of adventures to the 'best' few in each bunch and don't try to squeeze every single one in, which would end up boring the readers instead of intriguing them and making them want to read on, to get to the next 'set'...

    for instance, no one's going to want to have to plow through the nitty-gritty of 80 relationships, for pete's sake... so just include the best and worst and only hint at the rest... same goes for all those speeding tickets, or car repos...

    if you really have to get it all into one book [and i don't see any good reason why you do!], then you have no choice but to leave out a lot of good stuff, even if you do pare down the number of escapades... doing that, if your life has really been as eclectic as you say, seems a silly thing to do, when you could instead give the readers of 'part one' lots more to look forward to in 'part two'... i've no doubt that this is the same advice any good agent would give you, were you to ask...
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had forgotten there is also Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl - Boy being one of the best books he ever wrote,
     
  11. alter-ego
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    alter-ego Banned

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    I'll have to give that a look into too, thanks, although if its anything like his other fictional works I'm not sure it will be in the same style I'd use. Have you read Mark Twains Roughing It, or the Innocents Abroad?. That would be more style.
     
  12. Bay K.
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    Bay K. Contributing Member

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    You can mention all the adventures, but not necessarily narrate them all.
     

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