Memoir: a Truthful Lie?

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How much of a memoir can be a bold face lie before someone labels it fiction? Perhaps Oprah knows. Does anyone recall ‘A Million Little Pieces’ ? I wasn’t into memoir then like I am now when Oprah busted James Frey for recreating his version of the truth. Nobody dupes Oprah and simply walks away with it. I guess she felt cheated. When people read a memoir they do believe what they are reading actually occurred.

Unless you kept a detailed diary of everything that happened or recorded conversations with people while you were talking with them you may, as a writer, have to make some stuff up. Some facts should be left alone: You might not recall the weather the day you lost your virginity but you better remember who you were with.
When writing a memoir you might believe that doing research is unnecessary since every memory is entirely in your head. Cross referencing your memories with someone who was actually there is always a good idea.
I was talking to my younger sister (who refuses to even look at my memoir because of personal reasons) about our childhood and she made me realize that my memories are not always entirely accurate. She was also able to jog my memory about events and people that I had forgotten. I have had writers block with my memoir lately and I believe it’s because I’m doing to much big picture thinking and not enough writing down what I do vividly remember. It’s impossible to recall every minute detail but I can piece it all together by remembering the most important moments. Hopefully Oprah won’t have my story fact checked. Then again the publicity might be worth it.

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