Memoirs are different from autobiographies because they are about specific moments in time instead of offering a look at a chronological period of time. Fictionalized memoirs are different from standard memoirs because of the inclusion of fiction or fictional writing techniques. If the names or places of a memoir are changed to protect those involved, then this would be classified as a fictionalized memoir.
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It’s a new term for an old genre of writing. The fact is that all memoirs are generally at least partially fiction since they are based on one person’s perception of events. Each person who witnesses an event may experience it and remember it in a very different way. This doesn’t mean their work is fiction if they write it down in a memoir. It simply means that what is fact for them could be fiction to someone else who was also there.
What Elements Are Contained in a Fictionalized Memoir?
Fictionalized memoirs contain all of the elements of any other good story. It will be rich in conflict and drama. There will be dialogue included that helps to push the story arc forward toward a natural conclusion. Scenes and details will be offered in all of their descriptive glory.
Yet there is one very important element in the memoir that isn’t always included in other forms of fiction: the special moment. Memoirs identify special moments and memories that also help to move the narrative forward to a natural conclusion. This allows the writer to include personal thoughts and feelings that happened in real time in a real way, yet be able to do so in a relatively safe literary environment thanks to the fictional elements.
Then there is the final reveal which must take place. This is the moment when there is one truth revealed or a revelation occurs so that the reader understands the point the writer is trying to make with their memoir. The essence of this final reveal can be woven throughout each portion of the narrative so that when it is finally offered, the reader says, “Yes. That makes complete sense.”
Fictionalized Memoirs and Focus
The one struggle many writers have with fictionalized memoirs is to stay on-topic with their narrative. It can be very easy to include side memories, flashbacks, flash-forwards, and personal tangents as the story develops. Although these may be factual elements that occurred during that point in time, the memoirs themselves need to stay focused on the overall story arc that is being included. This allows the reader to stay on the journey toward that final reveal.
Focus also must occur with the details that are included within the narrative. A story must give a reader some sort of an emotional response for the narrative to have meaning. Any emotion will work: horror and suspense are just as good as love. It can also be a good thing to combine conflicting emotions, such as horror and love, to create a compelling scene which hooks the reader and never lets them go.
Why Fictionalized Memoirs Are Important
It’s a sad fact, but one that is true: our current society is quick to embrace litigation when there is a perceived wrong that occurs. Sometimes taking legal action is absolutely the right thing to do. From a writing perspective, the fictionalized memoir allows a writer to embrace the creative process without a disclaimer because the fiction techniques create a compelling story.
Especially when that style of writing is compared to the type of nonfiction memoir which has a narrative created to avoid any litigation whatsoever.
The one fact that all memoirs have is that it is the writer who is determining what truth happens to be within their narrative. When that truth conflicts with acceptable societal truths or may hurt the character of someone else, then the possibility of litigation exists. This is what determining what is fact and what is fiction – or what can be offered as fact through fiction – is so important to do within the structure of fictionalized memoirs.
A Fictionalized Memoir Should Still Be a Personal Reflection
Even with the need to avoid litigation and the desire to include fictional elements like conflict and drama, a fictionalized memoir must still be a direct personal reflection of the writer for it to be meaningful. The thoughts and reflections of the writer during the most important parts of their life must always revolve around the theme of the book and come from a very real place for it to matter.
When this all comes together, then a very meaningful story can be created. This is the power of the fictionalized memoir and why it should be embraced.