1. ArckAngel
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    ArckAngel Member

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    Memoir questions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ArckAngel, Feb 12, 2011.

    So at the moment I've lived in China for 6 months. And I've had some interesting experiences. More to the point of this thread, people around me have as well. Sometimes not so flattering. How do you respect the privacy of others when writing a memoir? Other than just changing names and such, because if I point out that the writing is about my time in China, well then it's pretty obvious who I'm talking about if one were to know them.

    On another note, how do you feel about reading a memoir by a young author? I'm only 24, and I feel a memoir has to be about a long and hard life (Angela's Ashes) and yet I also feel my time in China has been interesting enough to read about.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You don't have to be old to write a memoir, unless you're writing about your lifespan or something. For writing about some sort of specific experience, you could be 10 and it would be all good as long as it's well written.

    If you don't want people involved to know, obviously change names, but you might want to consider using a pen name - this depends on how sensitive the info involved is. Get your friends' permission before using their stories and maybe talk to a lawyer to be safe?

    I know some stuff about libel laws, but everything I know is for media writers, so I'm not sure if it's different for fiction - haven't been in that situation.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It could fall better into the domain of travel writing than memoir. 6 months isn't a particularly long time (at least in terms of a memoir), so travel writing would seem more apt, and it would allow you to explore more than just 'this is what happened to me', which seems like the kind of thing you are trying to do anyway.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, age doesn't matter if the writing quality is good and the content is interesting enough...

    the privacy issue is much more troublesome, since you can be sued for writing about someone without their permission... even with changed names, if the person can be recognized from the situations and events depicted, you can be sued for invasion of privacy or even libel, if they don't like what you write about them and it can't be proven to be true... and even if it can, you could still be sued for defamation of character, if the person isn't a public figure...

    before you get into this, you should consult a literary attorney to learn what you can and can't get away with, since publishers aren't going to risk being sued, so won't take on your book if it poses such a risk...

    arron's idea to consider the travel genre is worth considering, imo...
     
  5. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    This sounds interesting... how would this work?

    The author would certainly "recognize" the similarities, and the anonymous/named-with-an-alias person might feel a sense of recognition... but how would they "prove" that the wider, uninitiated public would make this connection?

    I'm guessing this would all have to play out in a court of law, like any suit... and what role, if any, would the author's verisimilitude play? (Not modifying the "true life events" in a disparaging way.) Doesn't this edge into the category of the unauthorized biography?
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, it would have to be fought out in court... and it won't matter who wins really, since the author will still have to come up with the funds to hire an attorney and will be out the time and energy it takes to rebut the charges...

    it's not a biography issue, since the people will only be mentioned in passing and the focus of the book is on the author's experiences, not theirs...
     
  7. imagistpoet
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    imagistpoet New Member

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    I agree whole heartedly with the above responses. Age doesn't matter in memoir writing. Experience is what matters. As long as you have experiences worth writing about, you should go for it.
     
  8. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    I have also toyed with the idea of writing memoirs, and I am not much older than you are. Write. I have my great-grandfather's memoirs, and they are so much fun to read, even though they are not well-written and quite short. But hey, that was my ancestor! He shook Bismarck's hand! It's always fun to read about a person's experiences, if they are interesting enough.
     

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