I love to read both memoir and fiction. I enjoy discovering the insight provided by the memoirist when she makes her point in the slice of life story she is telling. In fiction, I enjoy the more plot and action-based stories of adventure, cozy mysteries, and romance.
But to write, I think writing fiction is far easier than writing memoir. Because in fiction, the writer can make up whatever she needs in order to make the story work, to make it intriguing. Is it easy? No. Not for me. But I can do things in fiction that I can’t do in memoir. Let’s say the protagonist in a fiction story needs some deep-seated reason to be fearful of relationships or to be afraid of bears. The writer creates the circumstances. Let’s say the writer needs an informant. Created. An antagonist? No problem. The characters need to be three-dimensional to appear real? Backstory can be made to order in fiction.
In memoir, the story the writer tells is true. There are demonstrative facts showing it to be so. The writer can’t, or shouldn’t, make up a memoir story. The writer can’t change when things happen or where they happen. She can’t create fictitious characters or change the beliefs of a real person whom she includes in her personal memoir story to make the story more exciting. She can’t add scenes that never happen to increase tension.
In memoir, the writer needs to find the story in the slice of life she wishes to share with the reader. She needs to find her point to be sure she knows what it is so she can relay it to the reader. Then the memoirist proves her point by shaping the true story in an interesting way, by creating scenes with true details and populating them with real people who matter to the protagonist in her journey. Then the memoirist interprets these scenes and happenings for the reader, to show the reader the insight gleaned from what really happened, to demonstrate the shift in mindset of the protagonist.
That being my understanding between the two genres, I like to write adventure story. I’ve had the most success creating young adult adventure story, “man or woman versus nature” adventure. As some of you know, I have camped with five children for years. You can discover our adventures camping across the United States and up into Canada at Camping with Five Kids.
Most of my YA adventure stories begin in a location we have visited while camping with kids. But as many of you know, any children’s writing needs to have a child protagonist who saves the day—not an adult stepping in to “fix” things. This is where the fiction comes into play. In fact, the first story I sold to Cricket Magazine had my teen protagonist with her younger brother lost in a cave. I needed to give the protagonist the backstory to be able to get them out of the cave without help from an adult. After I’ve sold several stories to Cricket, my editor did ask me in a confidential e-mail if I’ve ever let my children go explore a cave by themselves or hike in a national park by themselves and meet a mountain lion. The answer, of course, is no. That’s where the “fiction” comes in. But my editor does check out my Camping with Five Kids blog to see where we’ve been and the photos of national parks or the difference between the sugar cone pine cone and the redwood and sequoia pine cones.
My family and camping adventures are my inspiration—especially for my YA adventure stories. Where do you find inspiration to write in your particular genre? Thanks so much for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.
This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.