1. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    Memoir Inclusion of letters

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by sunsplash, May 12, 2014.

    I was about to post this in bio-subforum and then realize it was part of the workshop area. I hope this is a more appropriate place, maybe General Writing would've been better? Please move this if I've chosen poorly!

    In my memoir that I'm working on, I'm including written letters between myself and another party (with their permission, as I've learned the content belongs to the writer, not the recipient) and am wondering if I should include them in their entirety or edit them down only to the information pertinent to the story (cut the "how are the kids?," weather, other small talk)? Some of the letters are long, handwritten front and back for 8-12 pages sometimes, and most of them are all about the situation being discussed and completely relevant. Is it better to trim the letters down and include their revealed information elsewhere throughout the narration and flashbacks or do I need to keep them as is? Is there a proper way to include letters or is it just based on writer preference?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it would be far better to pare them down to essentials, rather than losing your readers by boring them to death! ;)

    the usual, most acceptable way to include letters, articles, and the like is to insert them as block indents [needing no " "]...

    alternatively, you can include bits and pieces within the narrative, as direct quotes in " "...
     
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  3. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    I had my fingers crossed you find me here, @mammamaia! Thank you so much. Boring the reader is exactly my fear but I wondered if the little things not pertaining to the seriousness of the letters would humanize their writer more to those unfamiliar. For as long as they go one for, it does seem necessary to cut stuff out. Do you know if I have to copy what I do use verbatim or if I'm allowed (or encouraged) to rewrite passages that aren't "proper?" I don't want to change the tone or voice of what's not mine but the author of the letters is very casual and careless in some places, too.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm glad you got your wish, ss!

    since this is a memoir and the letters are from a real person to a real person, you do have to quote them verbatim, including any grammar, spelling errors, etc.... but you can leave out the boring parts, in which case, you would insert ellipses where parts have been elided... i'll be happy to show you how, if you're not sure how to do it and want to post a sample...

    that said, you must have a signed release from the person who wrote them, giving you permission to do so, before using any part of them...
     
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  5. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    Understood. Your offer is greatly appreciated. I'll definitely be in contact further since this is very different from anything else I've ever tried to write and I am struggling. Thanks. :)
     
  6. sylvertech
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    sylvertech Active Member

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    Well, it is preferred that you cut down some stuff.

    You can mitigate any harm from this by quoting a specific "section" verbatim without cutting anything, but not including the things before it or after it.

    The Sorrows of Young Werther is one masterpiece you should be aware of, though it is purely fictional (or autobiographical, according to the interpretation).

    All in all, you can just quote the passages that have the desired effect.
    You should have an intended effect, or at least try to imagine the effect on the readers, instead of just inserting text that seems nice.
     
  7. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    The entire purpose of the letters is show the relationship between myself and another person as events played out over a certain period of time, with my narration and flashbacks between. I think it is necessary to use the bulk of them (meaning pertinent information) to illustrate the contrast of thought and emotion in an identical situation experienced by two separate people. It isn't one letter with a section or passage being used...it's a decent portion of the book. Thanks for the reference, I'll check it out. :)
     
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  8. sylvertech
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    sylvertech Active Member

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    The sorrows of young werther is entirely made up of letters (and a newspaper snippet near the end).
     

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