1. Autumn_Renee
    Offline

    Autumn_Renee New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2009
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    Brainstorming.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Autumn_Renee, Oct 9, 2009.

    Hi all! My name's Autumn, and I'm a new member, I just haven't gotten around to posting an introduction. If those post gets a little bit long, please accept my beforehand apology! Anywhoo, here's the deal.

    Before I give you any of the major details, I have to say that the book that I'm particularly interested in writing is a sort of.. memoir. I'm a little addle brained when it comes to explaining this, but here's my try: Yes, I want it to be a memoir, but I want some of the details to be a little bit different. The setting, in Ohio, is already perfect. But I'm afraid that my "characters" ( real people, being referred to as characters for now ) are a little on the nitty gritty side. I'm having a hard time developing ways to soften them, so with that said, I'll give you some background on my life which will make up the memoir, and the characters, which will hopefully result in some suggestions.


    • My Mom gave birth to me when she was seventeen, after getting pregnant on purpose at sixteen.
    • My Father stuck around for a very short time, before getting sent to jail on his first robbery conviction. He's been what one would call a "career criminal" for the entire duration of my life ( I'm now nineteen ), and hasn't been very much apart of it.
    • My Grandparents raised me, more or less. But, I don't want them to be a large part of this book. They were very instrumental in the story, but I want them as more of a backdrop.
    • I had a sister, named Andrea. We lived with my Mom for about seven years together, until Andie passed away. She was younger, and had just turned seven when she died.
    • After the above, I lived permanently with my Grandparents. My Mother disappear off the face of the earth, only reappearing for money or to call and say that she was going to commit suicide, which she tried to do at regular intervals.
    • After a few years, and a few suicide attempts, my Mother came to live with me & my Grandparents. She was very mentally ill ( and has always been, I should have mentioned that before, sorry!), and slept 24/7.
    • My Father got out of jail for a little while, and during the time he was out my Mom and him sold cocaine. Something happened along the way, a man was murdered, and they went to Tennessee and got married. Upon coming back, my Dad was arrested for a parole violation.
    • My Mom moved back in with my Grandparents & me, and we got along for the most part. She stopped selling drugs, but was still dependent on them. Ontop of this, she never got over my sister's death. In June, nine days before my birthday, she left, and was later found dead in a motel three miles from my Grandparents house.
    • After that, my father was arrested for the mans murder. Stood trial, and was given a life sentence in a maximum security prison. A sentence that he's currently trying to appeal.

    Now, that was all a mouth full, and I know a lot of you might be wondering how I'm going to develop that into a story.... I'm wondering too. But, I'm pretty set on the memoir dynamic being about the relationship between my mother and I, which for the most part was terrible.

    As you can see, though, the people are very... odd, at best. To sum it all up in a short: my mom was by all definitions legally insane, and a drug addict. My father was a very mean man, and a criminal. I guess you could say my main concern is making them out to be villains, when I want them to be people? Talking to my mother to get more details is obviously not an option, and really isn't one with my Dad either.

    What do you suggest? In what ways could I make them "softer" people? The only way I can think of, is to put a big emphasis on their love, which would be pretty much a new age romeo and juliet story.



    Any help would be appreciated!
     
  2. jwatson
    Offline

    jwatson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    canada
    Did you mean to type that you didn't want them to be villains?

    I've put a lot of thought into this...maybe you need to bring in some fiction to achieve your goal. If you're having trouble developing them into the character you want to by using their exact characteristics, maybe you need to tweak them, which would essentially not be your exact idea of a memoir.
    So maybe it will come down to adding a fictional characteristic to one of them. For example, your dad helped a guy out in prison who was getting beaten up. Could that "soften" his character up? Although he is in prison, he still felt pity for someone and tried helping...?

    On another note, I can only imagine how terrible these events must have been. I'm sorry to hear about this all.
     
  3. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Dou YOU see anything about your mom that shows her softer side? What about your father?

    You may have to step outside yourself, to see them from the point of view of someone who liked them, felt close to them. Or maybe there is a part of yourself that remembers them in softer moments, so you can find different eyes within you. Write through those eyes to see the softer, more sympathetic side you want to show.

    Unless you want your memoirs to come across as bitter and strident as so many celebrity memoirs do.
     
  4. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    I don't much think you'll have to worry about "softening" your characters, because it sounds to me like your natural inclination is to draw out the theme that a "softness" of view rather than the rigidness of real vantagepoint can emerge even from the hardest of circumstances. IMO, that's a "truth" worth tackling in either a memoir or a fictional piece. The key in a memoir (in my view) is to tell an "honest" story however much you may have to fictionalize details of events in order to illustrate their significance. For me, the discovery that a "fictional" memoir can sometimes deliver the goods in a more powerful way than a memoir that focuses on accuracy and reportage was a very freeing experience. Either way, I think it sounds perfectly fascinating, and your objectives are well thought out and, while undoubtedly challenging, are perfectly doable and well worth the effort. I'm rooting for you!
     
  5. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    sorry, but to me, if it's fictionalized to any extent, then it's no longer a memoir, but a work of fiction... i don't see how the line can be blurred...

    to be 'honest' it must be a completely factual account of what took place in one's life, is then a non-fiction 'memoir'...

    if any part of what took place, or who did what is fictionalized, then it's no longer 'honest' and is not non-fiction, or a memoir, but a 'story'... though it may be 'fiction based on real life' and can be described as such...

    the very word, 'memoir' is french for 'memory'... not for 'imagination'...

    the major problem with writing a [memoir, or fiction based on real life] is that some of the people in your life who must be written about may not want you to and could well sue, if they don't like what you say about them, or how you depict them, regardless of whether it's 'true' or not... for that reason, it's hard to get a publisher to take one on, not wanting to be a party to such suits, unless you have releases from those involved...

    furthermore, even if you write it as fiction, should the characters be able to recognize themselves, or they be recognized by any who know them, they can still sue successfully... so, you have to be very sure you really want to write this and be very sure no one will be upset if you do, or be ready to deal with the consequences...

    remember that celebrities can afford lawsuits, while you probably can't... and if sufficiently ticked off by your depiction of them, aggrieved parties won't care if it costs them something to get satisfaction...
     
  6. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    I believe "memory" is really how we imagine (or fictionalize) our past in order to understand its significance. "Honesty" has to do with why it's significant to us. Even biographies are difficult to "factualize," given the manner in which folks around the person who knew him or her remember that person's significance and the role they played in various things.

    I read a very interesting biography about Sylvia Plath written by a biographer who spoke at length about the difficulties of sorting through various recollections on the part of those who knew her. I don't recall the name or the biographer. But it was very enlightening study. The oral history folks have argued and debated endlessly over the issue of asking questions in an interview and how and whether doing so distorts or reveals accurate "recollections." Even the history folks who write textbooks are called to task for their particular take on the "facts," as anyone who went to school in the South when I did probably knows.

    I don't believe memoirs and recollections are (or can possibly be) nearly the idealized, clearcut pathway you describe. And, in any case, it's perfectly acceptable to write a "memoir" as a piece of frank fiction or even a hybrid to whatever extent the writer chooses to do so in order to reveal the (honest) significance of her past history and experience.

    That's just my opinion, of course, and you're welcome to yours.:)
     
  7. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    Yeah, I agree that in principle a memoir should be based in fact, but there is simply no way that anyone can remember their entire life in the level of detail necessary to write a memoir of it. So we recall the important things....single sentences and conversations and moments and build a remembered life around it...it blurs the line between fiction and fact as only memory can....

    If you continue down this route, I'd suggest (although you're only 11...so maybe never mind....) reading Proust and Nabokov's Speak, Memory...
     
  8. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    Excellent suggestions, Arron. I'm reading a Murakami short story collection right now, and this leapt out just this morning, which reflects pretty accurately my thoughts on the matter (from "A Folklore for My Generation: A Pre-History of Late-Stage Capitalism").

    "The story he told me came out after we had batted around other topics over some wine, so strictly speaking it might not be entirely true. There are parts I didn't catch, and details I've kind of imagined woven in. And to protect the real people in it, I've changed some of the facts, though this doesn't impact the overall story. Still, I think things took place pretty much as said. I say this because though I might have forgotten some of the details, I distinctly recall the overall tone. When you listen to somebody's story and then try to reproduce it in writing, the tone's the main thing. Get the tone right and you have a true story on your hands. Maybe some of the facts aren't quite correct, but that doesn't matter--it actually might elevate the truth factor of the story. Turn this around, and you could say there're stories that are factually accurate yet aren't true at all. Those are the kind of stories you can count on to be boring, and even, in some instances, dangerous. You can smell those a mile away."
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    regardless of anyone's personal opinion, my point is that agents and publishers won't consider such a semi-fiction hybrid a 'memoir' and will have to treat it as a novel, in shopping/marketing it... i guess i should have been clear on that... sorry for the confusion...

    ???... she said she's 19... still young, but surely not too young to read proust or nabokov...
     
  10. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    Oops my bad! No excuse for not reading Proust then... :D
     
  11. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Have you really read all 1.5 million words of it? If you have, then I salute you. The thought of committing myself to reading all of A la recherche just makes me put off reading it.

    Speak, Memory is something I think the OP should look into. It's a good example of a well written memoir.
     
  12. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    Nope, only The Way By Swann's and a little of Sodom and Gomorrah....and only in English...+
     

Share This Page