1. WTFsara
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    WTFsara New Member

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    Writing something based on your childhood

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by WTFsara, Apr 18, 2012.

    I don't really want to have to explain all of this but in short terms,I would like to write a book that was based on what my life was like for me growing up and how it is now,obviously my life is not finished because Im still kicking,but in a sense a lot of what I went through and the family I had growing up,wasn't really how any kid should have to grow up. So in a sense I want to write a book that is basically based on how my life was growing up,the things I endured,the pain,all of that. There is a lot to it,that is pretty hard to explain,and I have tried numerous times to start some sort of draft on it,but then I get discouraged for many of reasons,and I'm not really sure if this is something I should do,though I really really want to.

    I wanted to write a book at one point,on how i overcame the obstacles that were thrown my way,but it's a touchy subject for me still,and I don't really know if it would even help anyone else out,that may be or might be going through the things I have and still do go through.

    Any suggestions or Ideas that come to mind are welcomed,I could really use the help.
     
  2. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Well it sounds like you want to write a memoir. You haven't used the word memoir, so I am wondering if you are unaware of that genre of writing (this may be a mistaken assumption -- in which case, I apologize). If you have never read a memoir then I would recommend you start there before trying to tackle writing. If you go to Amazon or even just google the term "memoir," you will see dozens of entries. This may give you some perspective of the way memoirists choose to write their stories and the strategies they use. Also, don't necessarily focus only on the topic that you want to write about. See how other writers handle different subjects.

    However, if you feel compelled to go directly to writing there are two routes you could take (there are more, but these are the two most common tropes that memoirs fall into). First, you could fictionalize it a la James Frey and A Million Little Pieces. We all know the Oprah debacle Frey went through when she found out that his heart wrenching story about drug addiction and rehabilitation was more fiction than fact. However, if you tell the reader that this has been based on true events, but certain things have been changed then you are free and clear to use your personal experience intertwined with a more fictional perspective. Doing so may provide you to tell your story with a little more distance. Ever since Frey and the explosive popularity of the memoir genre, most authors now have a disclaimer of this sort so that they don't get into Frey's trouble. A good example of this is Augustous Burroughs "Running with Scissors."

    The second option would be going right out into a memoir style. I am assuming this portion of your life is over, i.e. you're an adult. You could write as a teenaged version of yourself or from your perspective now looking back on critical moments in your childhood and how they have helped shaped the person you have become. However, I would only recommend going this route if you are strong enough to deal with the past.

    Best of luck and if you would like some recommendations for books to read I would be happy to give you some! I have a bizarre obsession for these types of books.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    writing a memoir about a painful period in your life can definitely be a good catharsis, to help you go forward with your life... however, if not really well-written and about something that many others can relate to, it's not something that will be marketable enough for a paying publisher to bother with... which is why you'll find so many of this type of book being self-published and put out as e-books, which will not make you much, if any money...

    if you feel a need to write it, then by all means go ahead and do so... it can't hurt and can certainly help you to come to terms with what took place... but--and it's a major but--if there are people you will be writing about who will not be happy to see you airing their dirty linen, you could be sued and even enjoined from publishing it, so you need to consult a literary attorney to learn what the possible legal consequences to you are and how to avoid losing everything in law suits...

    for now, i'd advise you to just sit down and write... get it off your mind, let it all come out and be set down on paper, so you can let go of the past and move on... don't worry about how good or how poor the writing is, let it flow as it wants to, knowing you can fix it up later, if need be... and if you should end up with a marketable book that may help others who've gone through similar traumatic times, all well and good... if not, you'll still have dealt successfully with your past and be able to let it go...

    i've written about my own difficult past and i've helped others write such memoirs, so i know it works...

    love and healing hugs, maia
     
  4. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Good advice maia. If your aim is to connect and somehow help others through your story writing a blog is the way to begin. You'll be surprise at just how many people like you are out there. It will encourage you to keep writing and at some point you'll be able to decide whether to go ahead with writing and publishing your story or not. I don't want to go into details but I am telling you this from experience.
     
  5. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    The back story of my lead is the entire span of my own childhood, right down to the reaction he has for both of his deceased parents.

    I am a firm believer that your personal feelings and experiences bleed into your prose. I also believe that you should "use it." My character is your archetypical "angry young man," and so was I. I want to tap into that igneous anger and angst because it explains a lot about how my lead thinks.

    Give you a for instance. My lead's father was wealthy, the lead is not. His father's manor has a manservant that still works for the estate. My lead meets him every Thursday night, and they get on their knees and scrub the kitchen floor. When the lead was a little boy, he left one if his dad's wrenches outside and it rained. The father blew up, threw a wooden-handled scrub brush at his son and told him to help clean the floor to "teach him what things cost." Now as a young adult, the lead meets the manservant every week, and they scrub, because the servant has become a mentor.

    You can't make this stuff up.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It's not entirely clear what your goal is, here. If you are writing for the purpose of self-healing, then by all means do it, and don't hold anything back. I've done this myself, and found it an excellent way to deal with old wounds. OTOH, your statement that your experience "wasn't how any kid should have to grow up" suggests that you may want to reach a wider audience. In other words, the goal would not be self-healing as much as a cautionary tale for others, and that is also a good thing to do if you are up for it.

    If your goal is the cautionary tale, then you may want to consider fictionalizing your experience - give your MC a different name, change the locations and make certain that some elements of your story are fiction not based on your experience. This will allow you to make your point, but at the same time develop characters and subplots in a way that should make it enjoyable for you and allow you to be creative. A number of Charles Dickens' stories were based on his childhood.

    You may find you need to do both - the self-healing first, the cautionary tale later. Nothing wrong with that, either.

    In any case, best of luck!
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Thank you for the response.

    While it stings a bit to go over old memories, I can assure you that the healing is about as good as it's going to get. The fight is over, my parents are in an urn on a shelf in my home. I'm not one to chase old ghosts, or fear them. Their clumsiness did leave footprints on my soul.

    I cannot even describe my story as cautionary. What I have envisioned, and written in rough draft form already, is how I would like my life to finish. I'm sure many would not. By most American standards, the lead is a complete failure. He 'succeeds' only in the application of an ideal much bigger than himself.

    Do you think "clean up your act" is cautionary?
     
  8. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I agree that, if you are writing for yourself only, then write the story exactly how you remember it because it . If you want to publish it, then you should be more careful about how you write your story.

    Though it depends on local law, it is often the case that as long as you are being 100% honest in your claims, you are not capable of being sued. The idea is that it isn't slanderous if it is the truth. Perhaps if you start to exaggerate certain aspects to tell your story, you might find yourself in trouble, and that's when you want to change the characters so they are unidentifiable.

    Here's another option for you: Treat your struggles as a really rich background to your characters. Use your experience by adding it to a different story entirely. Give your character something else to struggle through, and have it parallel their troubles with their parents. Perhaps they want to run for mayor or are pursuing an elusive boy. You could also dabble in other genres, like horror, or fantasy, or sci-fi. Have them go on an adventure, but they are internally dealing with something that is very similar to the trouble's you've overcome.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but that's not true, and doesn't really depend on 'local laws,' if by that you mean city or state statutes... in the us, anyone IS 'capable of being sued' for what they write, since anyone can sue anyone else for just about anything... if the suit is allowed to go forward by the court, it won't matter whether the suer can win or not, when the suee still has to spend tons of money to defend against a suit for libel, or defamation of character, or invasion of privacy, or all of the above...

    it's not just a matter of 'being 100% honest'... if the people you write about are not public figures, then they have a right to privacy that if breached, is actionable... plus, being 'honest' is not always the same as being accurate... someone writing about being wronged or abused by someone else may honestly think they're being honest about the events, when in fact their version of what took place could be somewhat skewed by their emotions and thus not be entirely accurate...

    and 'slander' is when things are said publicly, that damage someone's reputation... 'libel' is what applies to what is written...

    whenever someone wants to write about their own life and what they write will include the actions of others, it is VITAL that they consult a literary attorney about what is safe to do and what is not, instead of relying on what well-meaning people on writing sites have to say about it... and yes, that includes not just taking my word for it, too...
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In the United States, if you are sued for defamation (libel or slander), the burden is upon you to prove your assertions. They do NOT have to prove you wrong.
     
  11. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Based on my understanding almost all memoirs -- no matter the topic -- have disclaimers at the beginning, which clearly state that certain people or time have been altered for narrative purposes. After the Frey/Oprah fiasco, I believe most authors and publishers have wanted to cover their asses. It is assumed, no matter how honest you are, that as a writer you are going to take certain liberties because of narrative flow. Now this is speaking specifically if you are publishing.
     
  12. Jenny Masters
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    Do it.

    a) Sounds like it will be cathartic.

    b) Follows "write what you know"

    c) If you've never written a complete story before, it's a great place to start. Because you've already got it plotted in your head more or less.
     
  13. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    there's something that would be an interesting thread. How do you feel about "write what you know"? Do any of us ACTUALLY write what we know? Because frankly, if I did, I think it would be really, utterly, and terribly mundane. LOL
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You'd be surprised what you know, when you start writing. You have your own experiences and perspectives, like no one else.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    such disclaimers offer no protection against being sued for libel, defamation, breach of privacy, et al.
     
  16. ketamineman
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    ketamineman Member

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    whatever you are writing about your life should form some type of overall story. remember, your life is more interesting to you than anyone else.

    I did the whole book based on life events. i finished the first draft and it sucked. on the second draft i found that i really didn't want to write it again and it was crap. but as soon as i decided to rewrite every word it got better. near the end of the second draft i started to really find out what my book was about. at this point i took my name out and found that i liked writing completely fictional parts of the book that were somewhat based on what happened. now on the last chapter i feel like i finally have what i want to do the book and i am excited to write it. i have totally taken myself out of it.

    if you want to write fiction, then writing a memoire is no fun. it is boring. sitting around trying to remember everything is boring. creating is much more fun. but i do think that my first draft of my first book being true helped me write hundreds of pages.
     
  17. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Just write and let the story out. Once it's down on paper (or stored on disk) you can decide were to go from there. Facing the pain of ones past is not easy, but often it's the best way to move forward. As to helping others, you will never know till you try. The odds are it will help somebody, but only if you have the courage to write it.
     
  18. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Contact me by PM and I'll demonstrate an angle on this process.
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can understand as I am in pretty much the same boat. What I realised is, I am nowhere near ready to write about my life in a non-fiction sense. I draw on my own experiences when I plot, or create characters or think about the message I want to convey. I even model characters on people I know/knew. But writing an autobiography would be too difficult.

    Sorry if this didn't really help. I would like to encourage you to start with short stories of any memorable, positive and even funny events. Once you get going, you might be able to get more difficult things out. But stick to short story format, because it's easier, there's safety in limiting yourself and you never know, maybe in a year or so, you'll end up with enough material for a book. But just take it easy and enjoy the process :) Good luck!

    ps. Oh, and make sure you change the names, the place and your own name into an alias. That way, nobody you know can sue you because they have no proof it's about them. Sure any whacko can sue anyone, but usually without proof, they won't get very far.
     
  20. simplyrachel
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    simplyrachel Member

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    change all the characters' names, and maybe even the genders. that way nobody will really know its semi-autobiographical :) if you're embarrassed about your past, that is, then that is probably the best way to go. GOOD LUCK!
     

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