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Dialogue in Memoir

By Irene Waters

I sit and listen to news of blisteringly cold gales, snow falls, and marvel at photos of these dumps of snow on Facebook and Instagram. We are still in summer here with no evidence of autumn being around the corner and no doubt those in the northern hemisphere will be wondering if they will ever come in from the cold.

This puts me in mind of memoir as a genre. Will it ever come in from the cold and be given the value it deserves. Despite Frank McCourt and Mary Karr who are credited with being the first to move memoir up a notch in people’s estimation, memoir is still talked of in hushed tones. Writer’s of memoir often seem a little embarrassed that this is the genre they write. Other writers might quickly say, “I don’t write memoir.” What is the problem with owning our own story? Is it a lesser story because it happened to us? Does it say something about us because we want to tell it? No story has to be told and if yours is one that you don’t wish to share there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We do share our stories though. Every anecdote we relate is a small memoir told in an oral tradition. I researched memoir for my masters and discovered that memoir as a genre is new to scholarly examination. I also discovered that not many realise that memoir is captured in the genre creative nonfiction.

What is creative nonfiction? Lee Gutkind, the father of creative nonfiction, describes it as a “true story well told.”

The best creative nonfiction in Gutkinds opinion is where the public (books such as True Blood, The life of Henrietta Lacks) moves closer to the private end by giving some personal detail and the private end (which includes memoir and personal essays) includes some public information.

If we are looking at ‘true stories well told’ where does the creative come in? It does not mean making the story up. Once you do this, you have moved from nonfiction to fiction. The creative has been found to cause some confusion, and other names (narrative nonfiction, literary nonfiction) are often interchanged in the hope of giving a little more clarity. The creative is referring to using storytelling techniques from fiction to tell the true story. There are three major elements used: 1) dialogue; 2) high definition descriptions of scenes and 3) manipulation of time. It was these features that McCourt and Karr used skilfully creating a true story that people wanted to read.

In memoir writing, it is now widely accepted that all these elements are acceptable despite being made up elements. Dialogue serves the same purpose in memoir as it does in fiction. It develops or reveals the people who are in narrative, moves the plot forward and gives immediacy to the moment being described. From the readers perspective, it puts them in the scene. For memoir, it is accepted that the dialogue used will be of a style an in a manner of what would have been said. The essence of the dialogue must be true to memory even though the words are not remembered. At the time I was examining dialogue for my thesis I was reading many purists and questioned if dialogue was used, did it change the genre from memoir to BOTS. Painstakingly I counted how much dialogue was in a large number of memoirs – Frank McCourt used the most with one book 22.64 percent and another a whopping 47.74 percent. Most used less than 10 percent in a first memoir and less than 20 percent in a subsequent tome.

A similar finding is possible for high definition description of scenes. Mary Karr was a master at these descriptions such as her description of the doctor: “He wore a yellow golf shirt unbuttoned so that sprouts of hair showed in a V shape on his chest. I had never seen him in anything but a white starched shirt and a gray tie. The change unnerved me.” Despite these types of vivid description Karr could not remember everything and had huge gaps in her memory:

“Because it took so long for me to paste together what happened, I will leave that part of the story missing for a while. It went long unformed for me, and I want to keep it that way here. I don’t mean to be coy. When the truth would be unbearable, the mind often blanks it out. But some ghost of an event may stay in your head. Then, like a smudge of a bad word quickly wiped off a school blackboard, this ghost can call undue attention to itself by its very vagueness. You keep studying the dim shape of it as if the original form will magically emerge. This blank spot in my past, then, spoke most loudly to me by being blank. It was a hole in my life that I both feared and kept coming back to because I couldn’t quite fill it in.”

The two different memories don’t gel, and yet we accept the doctor scene as true. It gives us an entry into how Karr felt as a child. Again, these high definition scenes are now accepted as belonging in a work of memoir.

Next month I will look at time. I’d be interested to hear what you think about the inclusion of dialogue and high definition scenes in memoir. Do you think that the inclusion of these elements make the writing come alive? Do you feel you get to know the author better through dialogue? Do you think there is a point where there is too much dialogue? I look forward to hearing what you think.

Times Past Monthly Prompt

Please join Irene Waters at her blog Reflections and Nightmares with a monthly memoir writing prompt that gives us social insights between generations and geographical locations. Along with your response, give your location at the time of your memory and your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in can be seen at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments (here or at the current Times Past Monthly Prompt) or by creating your own post and linking to Trees: Times Past.

Irene Waters is a writer from Queensland, Australia, whose pastimes include dancing, reading, and playing with her dogs. Her main writing focus is memoir. Her writing has appeared in Text Journal and Idiom23 magazine. She is the author of two memoirs, Nightmare in Paradise, and its sequel After the Nightmare which she wrote as part of her thesis. Her Masters is a research degree, examining sequel memoir from Central Queensland University. Irene is a Rough Writer and contributor to The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1, including an essay on memoir.


  1. Wow Irene. I want to thank you for both elevating and illuminating this genre. You frame it well.

  2. I’ve wondered about this for years! I mentally named this category “narrative non-fiction.” It didn’t seem fair to keep it in the same category as regular non-fiction.

  3. bowmanauthor says:

    I sent you a message. You’ll find it. But dialogue in a memoir? Yes, it can be done and done well, but sparingly and realistically. Don’t use it as a political, religious, or lecture platform, even if that IS the story. A memoir or biography that reads like a novel, only true, is something to strive for.

    Second subject: eBook formatting? Is that what you’re talking about with the Mac and software program? Don’t go with a template. Everything I do is custom, and I know all the rules. I can’t work any other way. Charli, if you need anything, contact me. That’s what I do: edit, format, design, cover-to-cover.

    • Hi I haven’t seen a message from you but I’ll have another look. Totally agree with dialogue in memoir. I don’t believe that a memoir should be used as any platform other than giving the writer’s memories. I think that enough distance should be given between event and writing that it is not used as a tool to hurt or get back at anyone also. Absolutely agree that truth that is as compelling as a novel is what we hope and aim for.
      Re your second subject – I’m not sure what you are referring to so I think that Charli will answer this part.
      Thanks for adding your thoughts.
      Cheers Irene

      • bowmanauthor says:

        Thanks, Irene. Yes, the second comment was for Charli. I thought I was answering her. LOL

        This site is new to me, and it wasn’t clear which part of it was Charli’s blog and which part was your book as a Writer Memoirist. Good title, by the way. I’m a ghostwriter for memoirs that appear under the “author’s” byline. Intrigued by your book. I will go take a look. So glad we agree on dialogue and not using it as an old-fashioned soapbox. Our lives are so much more than what we preach/teach from the lofty summit. That’s our “game face”. Memoirs should be intimate. The message was to Charli as well. I’ll get the hang of what goes with what as a stumble around.

        So glad to have had the chance to discuss memoirs with you!

        Cheers back, Deborah

      • That would be interesting being a ghost writer and writing lives as a memoir when you haven’t lived the life. I am looking at interviewing a 90 year old with the idea that I can get her story down – but I don’t know whether I’ll do it as memoir or biography. It will depend how much she can give with her memory I guess.
        You were on Charli’s site and I worked out when I read the flash fiction prompt what you were asking and knew then it was a comment for Charli. Usually when guestblogging both the site owner and guest will respond to comments or if it is clear that it is for one or the other only that one will.
        Glad to have met you Deborah and look forward to hearing more about memoir from a ghostwriter viewpoint and discussing the genre generally.

      • bowmanauthor says:

        The ghostwriting memoir I did last year was so incredible. I was interviewing a 93-year-old Great Aunt on speaker phone with my client. She was a hoot! During the interview my client and I realized there was another ancestor that preceded all the others that no one knew about. Then we went to official records and found him! Great-Aunt Milly (not her real name, of course) knew everything! It brought a whole town and a whole family an additional generation into being, which enriched the family and everyone else who has read this amazing book. I was so honored that I was able to find the right words … my client’s words. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, North mid-west, but my husband said it was like living with a southern black woman for a few months last year. lol A story of faith, dedication, and hard work that has changed the lives of many.

      • Is it available to purchase?

      • Charli Mills says:

        That brings up an interesting subject, Deborah — intent. As you and Irene have discussed, the memoirist does not use writing as a tool to harm or preach. It would be further interesting to know how a memoirist keeps in check of those kinds of feelings when writing about hard memories.

        And thank you — I did receive your email and responded.

      • One of the posts I will write on this subject Charli.

      • Looking forward to that post Irene.

      • bowmanauthor says:

        The reply button is at the top of the thread, so not sure where this will physically post, but yes, Charli, received your kind answer to my contact form and sent you a reply. I think both Irene and I should do a quest blog on this subject from different POVs. What do you think, Irene and Charli? I guess I keep thinking about Ayn Rand and “Atlas Shrugged” which is one of my most favorite books, but “Fountainhead” was nothing but a political platform, and it was fiction! I hated it. Ha, ha, ha. In a memoir, you have to keep the issues as they pertain to subject personally. Therefore, a ghostwriter may be writing of things that she doesn’t entirely agree with, but realism and accuracy are paramount. It’s not my place to change someone’s mind. If I personally have trouble with the client’s views, it’s not going to work anyway, so I pass. An Autobiography is where political/religious, etc., platforms belong. A Biography is through the POV of the author. The clients I ghostwrite for are usually drawn to me for a purpose … as was the case with the client I mentioned above. I will be sending Irene more information on this book to purchase, but not yet. I have to have something fixed first. As an editor, the client wrote her own book description and I can’t deal with anyone thinking I wrote it. Yeah, that bad. My client will contact me when she has time. I know I have to wait for her response at times. She is making things happen in her own right, and I’m very proud to know her. Actually, I’ll be wiring a second and third edition of her memoir. The story isn’t over yet!

      • I’m not going to reply fully to your comment now Deborah as it makes up part of the post I will be doing next month on Time in relation to memoir. I imagine that as a ghostwriter you would have to be able to reconcile the story you are telling with your own morals and ethical viewpoints but if you can do that you have to divorce yourself totally from the story and in some respects you have to become the narrated ‘I’. I don’t know how easy that would be to do although I do know that when I write some fictional pieces for the 99 word flash fiction prompts it is as though the characters do the writing. They direct and I have little control over the direction that they want to take it.
        When you have fixed the problems look forward to getting the details.
        Different POV are always good to have and I know there is no right and no wrong. I am very opinionated and probably sound as though I consider myself to be right (which of course I do) but I know there are different viewpoints and listening to each other gives for great discussion and allows a platform where learning can take place.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Deborah, you are welcome to participate in our Raw Literature series. I was thinking you could describe to readers what your experience with ghost-writing is. Irene is our resident memoirist and this is actually her column and it’s not part of a guest series. I hope that clarifies. Check out the Guest Posts Tab in the menu and that will give you more details.

  4. calmkate says:

    am following Irene and closely commenting on her reflections of the past but as we grew up in a similar time and place I cannot add much new content.

    • And I’m glad that we have met on the bloggosphere. It is interesting that we have had similar experiences and our geographical location certainly explains that. There will be the odd prompt though that I bet we differ for other reasons but we’ll have to wait and see. It might be a long time getting there as we seem to have a similar outlook on many subjects.

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s an interesting thought, Kate — I used to think the same thing, that I’d have to find some topic, locale, details etc to come up with a different experience. And yet, I learned something from my daughter when she was a teenager — she picked up an interest in photography and so I took her with me on freelance assignments. I didn’t consider myself a photographer because I was a “writer with a camera” which meant I’d have better success selling features that included photos. What surprised me is how vastly different our photos were of the same subject on the same day with the same lighting. Fast forward to the weekly prompts and the diversity of creativity is undeniable. When we wrote about ink last month most of the Australian writers shared their experience writing with inkwells and nibs, yet each story was different. Hold on to the idea that you will always have something unique to write when you “write you”! You’ll be surprised by how much new you have to add to greater story. 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist) and commented:
    A guest post I did over at Carrot Ranch on the subject of memoir.

  6. How cool to have a monthly memoir prompt. I have to tell Debby Gies. <3

  7. TanGental says:

    Such a useful post as foreshadowed to me this week. I’ve agonized about dialogue in my stories about my mum and whether they take it from Memoir into the realm of a BOTS. I’m grateful to Irene’s considered analysis for putting my mind at rest.

    • Charli Mills says:

      When I read your comment on your post about dialogue in regards to your stories about your mum, I had just read Irene’s submission and was excited for you to read what she had to say. It worked out nicely!

    • I’m glad this was timely for you Geoff and put your mind at rest. Dialogue can add so much value to the understanding and vibrancy of a memoir and also for the reader to meet memoir’s equivalent of a character.

  8. A very interesting article, Irene. I am not familiar with the term BOTS but I think it must mean a autobiographical novel. I have been writing such a book with my Mom about her childhood. She can’t remember everything accurately so I have used a lot of research and a bit of poetic license to fill in the blanks.

    • susansleggs says:

      I had to ask, BOTS is based on a true story.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Our Rough Writer memoirists — Irene Waters, Sherri Matthews, Paula Moyer, Jeanne Lombardo — introduced us to BOTS (based on a true story) when writing flash fiction. I do not have a succinct phrase for flash “creative non-writing” so we stick to flash fiction but acknowledge and BOTS that come up.

      However, you bring up another point that I’m curious about, too, Robbie. What do we call a hybrid of memories and poetic license? My degree is in creative writing, so I’ve taken personal narrative and pushed into imaginative realms, personifying natural elements for example. And that’s why I never thought of my writing as memoir. It might be 95% memoir, but I see it as creative writing with that 5% imagined. I’ll be interested in Irene’s response!

      • Yes, that is exactly what I do. Based on fact but with a bit of a fictional element.

      • I would call these BOTS.The based lets the reader know that there are going to be parts of the story that are fiction so they don’t feel cheated (or perhaps they do – I remember feeling cheated that the PL Travers story was BOTS but some parts were so far removed from the truth that I wished that I had never followed it through with some research and found out the reality). Historical fiction is also another possibility depending on the story you are writing.

      • I wondered about historical fiction in this light Irene, thanks for clearing that up too!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Yes, makes sense that historical fiction is BOTS. That’s my love! I like digging into research, but I also like the freedom to explore ideas or questions the research can’t fully answer. Thanks for helping us navigate these areas, Irene.

    • Thanks Robbie. Susan is right – it is Based on a true story. Your Mum’s memory and research allows the work to be called memoir however once you add the poetic license it becomes a BOTS. This often happens in film making where they take a true story but know the audience may not like the real outcome which they alter and then they will call it a BOTS. Alternatively you can be like Mary Karr and just say that you have huge gaps and make sure the reader is aware of the gaps so at this point they realise they have an unreliable narrator.

  9. Norah says:

    Interesting article, Irene. I have read quite a few memoir and biographical pieces that I have thoroughly enjoyed, including by the authors you mention. I think the most recent was Magda Szubanski’s Reckoning which I read as an audiobook. I don’t remembering noticing descriptions or dialogue in any of the memoirs I read, but I wasn’t looking for them. I’m surprised dialogue was used so much by McCourt. I think dialogue would be more difficult to remember word-for-word unless it was something that had a powerful impact. I guess if it’s used to give the impression of the conversation it may enliven the story and make it more enjoyable than “he told her that”, “she said that”. The descriptions, I think, are fine and a necessary part of setting the scene. I guess it all comes down to what is remembered and what is not. I can remember a few conversations word for word – others only vaguely. If I had time, I’d be back checking my shelves to see. Thanks for opening up thought and conversation on this topic.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I remember reading McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes in college, but we didn’t study it as memoir (it was a creative non-fiction course). Perhaps to Irene’s point about memoir’s value as its own genre is still evolving. What the use of dialogue in that particular book made me think of are the conversations we hold captive in our minds when struggling to come to terms with a difficult period or person in our past. For me, McCourt nailed bringing those dialogues to life out of his memories. I think that’s where he cached his points of recollection.

      • It certainly brought his memoir to life and he and Mary Karr were credited as the first to write modern memoir – ie a book that could be read as easily as fiction yet retain its truth. I have always seen McCourt (and Karr for that matter) as both being unreliable narrators yet telling the truth of what they remember.

      • Norah says:

        Good points, Charli. I didn’t think too much about those aspects as I was reading ever so long ago. Both Mum and I enjoyed it and I remember taking Mum to a talk by Frank when he was in Brisbane. She was rapt by meeting him. Obviously the book was just new then, so it’s a while ago. I just checked. It was published in 1996, so over 20 years ago. 🙂 It would have been interesting to take some of his writing classes. I think he wrote a book about writing too, didn’t he? I also seem to hear recalling that his brother disagreed with some of Frank’s memories.

      • What a fascinating conversation you’ve sparked here Irene, loving the discussion and am jumping right in! Irene, you know I’m a big fan of Karr and think of her ‘Art of Memoir’ as the bible for memoirists. She is adament, as you know, about using the high definition description you write about here – that ‘carnalilty’ she stresses is so vital to the reader’s experience of taking them right there. That is certainly what I took away from Angela’s Ashes (and McCourt’s dialoge, totally agree Charli that he nailed it). But I read it long before I ever dreamed of writing a memoir, not even knowing that was what AA was, and like Norah, I also had not given any thought to just how much dialogue or description he used, until reading your comments here! I just read it because it was such a great story and it was huge here in the UK at the time. A bit like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album in the 70’s; in the 90’s everyone had a copy of AA. Can’t believe it’s been over 20 years…!

      • Norah, that must have been incredible to see Frank McCourt in action. What a wonderful experience for you and your mum 🙂

      • realmaven18 says:

        I highly recommend this book about memoir: Birkerts Sven
        The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again

      • Charli Mills says:

        I also recall Frank’s brother disagreeing with the book’s perspective, but it was so impactful, and Frank wrote it the way he remembered his experiences. Wow — 20 years ago we were all reading this book!

    • I think little dialogue is remembered word for word. I think what is remembered is how it made you feel, the way the speaker would have spoken and this can be replicated with words that weren’t spoken at the time but were of a style that would have been. McCourt made the counting of his dialogue very difficult as he didn’t use any speech markings and the only way you could pick up the direct speech was a comma after the verb of saying followed by a capital letter. I think that he may have done this in recognition that the dialogue was not word for word. Apparently in some editions it was written in italics which would have made it much easier to count.
      Having said that I had a great aunt that even in her 90s would tell you word for word conversations that she had from her youth onwards. I doubt that this was word for word either although she certainly believed it was. I guess some people may just remember better than others.
      Thanks for reading Norah.

      • Norah says:

        The reading was my pleasure, Irene. Thank you for explaining a little more about McCourt’s style. As I said to Charli, I really enjoyed the story but have no strong recollections of his style. I think it obviously fitted the story. It was an immensely readable and enjoyable book.
        Your aunt has a wonderful memory. When I was younger I used to remember conversations word for word, but not any more. I think you’re probably right in that we remember the feelings more than the words.

      • That was some task counting the dialogue Irene…and it just shows how certain conversations become engrained and repeated as complete truth, even when others might not agree. Fascinating.

      • It is fascinating Sherri. I’ve just been invited to a conference on speculative biography and memoir. I think it is going to be about BOTS – I’m tossing up whether to go but I don’t feel like writing a paper for it.

      • Charli Mills says:

        The Hub has always been one to recall word for word conversation, but I recall the tone and emotion. Together we’d make a complete recollection! Now with his memory issues, it’s all in weird disarray — he combines unrelated conversations into one. Sometimes it makes me laugh.

      • Better to laugh than despair. I think I am on the emotional side as well – remembering how it made me feel. There is the odd conversation I think I remember word for word but I couldn’t swear that it was.

  10. Annecdotist says:

    Enjoyed your post, Irene. I suppose you’re having to balance fidelity to the memory with the showing rather than telling that breathes life into your words. And I suppose for readers who are also looking for a perfectly truthful account in my raise suspicions about the accuracy of the rest.
    But as you know, I can’t get my head round memoir! Although I have enjoyed participating in some of your Times Past prompts. Unfortunately my comment with a link to my post on Learning to write
    must’ve gone straight to your junk folder as it didn’t appear on your blog (and it wasn’t that bad, honestly!) – I seem to have been banned from a few WordPress sites recently so I’m trying to get myself rehabilitated.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne, what do you think of the ownership of story? You and I have had similar views regarding memoir as fiction writers, and yet I felt that the distancing from memory resonated with me. I like to use my own experiences or observations, but I thoroughly enjoy taking them elsewhere in fiction, to explore what such experiences might mean. I like the idea of creating that distance when crafting fiction.

      WP has been harsh with spam designations lately. I have to check my junk folders daily. I think Norah found me in spam, too recently!

      • Annecdotist says:

        I’ve discussed ownership with Irene before (and I think Sherri) and I’m not sure we have the same sense of what it means.
        I don’t think we need to go public to own our experience (unless to refute an alternative interpretation already in the public domain) but sharing it with another person can certainly help. For me, that means therapy, especially if the experience is painful or otherwise disturbing or hard to name. But not everyone is comfortable with that route. Or able to afford it.
        My writing is intensely personal, although not transparently so. I think many fiction writers are continually processing the same core material in new ways, sometimes unconsciously. That might be a way of distancing AND keeping it close. That feels right to me: not denying the traumas that shaped us but returning to them with a sense of control (even if illusory).

      • Charli Mills says:

        Writing feels like processing, but it’s also exploration. Thanks for expounding upon the idea of ownership of our stories. It’s interesting that sometimes when people know I’m looking local stories, they “gift” me with a story as if they acknowledge it’s one I can have permission to write or explore further. When we were still in Idaho, I went to a humanities presentation with a woman who was a known story-keeper for a local indigenous tribe. She introduced me to another story-teller who told me about a female trapper from the 1920s. After she told me she said it was now mine. It’s a fascinating concept — these ideas of ownership.

      • Annecdotist says:

        Ah, gifting stories is a new one on me, apart from the totally unsuitable ones my husband jokingly gives me

    • Anne nothing you write is “that bad” but it has either gone to spam or somehow got lost in the comments waiting for my return from holiday and possibily I simply missed it. I always value your contribution to Times Past and your ability to combine a memoir prompt with fictional examples. Word Press have always had there ways and I think if you blog elsewhere it is a bit like trying to run a windows program on a mac computer and vice versa – it rarely works easily.
      A purist would agree with you Anne that dialogue and high definition scenes should be left out. There are fewer and fewer purists however and It seems to be an accepted part of memoir these days.
      I’m off to look at your writing.

      • Annecdotist says:

        Irene, I appreciate your attempt to make sense of “in my raise suspicions” in my comment (I think I meant “it might raise suspicions” – the perils of reliance on voice recognition software) but my personal perspective on dialogue would be the more the merrier – but I’m not a typical memoir reader. I’ve just checked the last memoir I read (and actually enjoyed) My Shitty Twenties contains a lot of dialogue which I didn’t question it all while I was reading, probably because I was enjoying the story. I think if you’re sharing your experience mostly to entertain (as I think if I’ve understood correctly, is what you’re about) and less for readers to learn from it, then the “rules” of fiction would most closely apply.
        Thanks for your comment on my Learning to write post to which I’ll reply soon.
        I’ve just tried again and failed to leave this comment on your tree prompt. It registers that I’ve left a comment and even assigns it a number
        but it doesn’t show!
        Lovely photo but sorry you had such an unpleasant introduction to climbing trees.
        I hadn’t seen or heard of a jacaranda until visiting Zimbabwe in the late 1980s, when I was overwhelmed by their beautiful flowers. Although we have a very attractive flowering cherry in the UK I don’t think we have anything comparable.
        I don’t recall trees figuring much in my childhood (apart from those brought into the house at Christmas) although there was a large sycamore in the playground at my primary school (UK, lately and rumour, smalltown). It might have had a bench around it – or I might be imagining that from how I feel it ought to have been!

      • There are so many genres that come under the heading of memoir – grief, misery, travel, true life adventure, farming, illness, animals and on and on it goes yet I think these days all are trying to entertain and some, maybe all, are saying this is a true story, this is possible and some are definitely trying to give understanding or hope to readers.
        I will look in spam and see if it shows. I was just a wimpy kid I think that grew up into a wimpy adult. Trees were obviously around but I think we didn’t think much about them in those days – perhaps because we were kids, perhaps because we didn’t see they were endangered. I can remember trees with benches around the trunk. We had one at school.

      • Found your tree comment Anne plus numerous from Charli, Kate and a few other people. I’ll have to check it a bit more regularly.

      • Annecdotist says:

        Thanks, Irene, good to be rehabilitated!

  11. You know I love this post Irene! I want to read every comment too, so will be back when I can do so tomorrow for sure!

  12. I am so much enjoying your memoir series Irene, and see you have another Time’s Past challenge about trees out. I will head over there tomorrow to catch up on your blog. Reading through the comments as well as your informative and educational post has been enlightening, as your memoir posts always are. Thinkg of our our previous discussion about the way memoir is embodied in creative non-fiction, this hit the nail on the head, where there is some confusion about the use of ‘creative’: ‘The creative is referring to using storytelling techniques from fiction to tell the true story.’ This is always the way I thought a good memoir should read, like a novel. But I always thought that creative non-fiction drew more into the realms of imagination. Thank you again for clarifying this so succinctly, as well as the use of dialogue in memoir. Here in the UK, I’ve seen the use of the genre ‘Life Writing’ coming up more. I wondered if you have come across that in Australia? Wonderful post Irene, thank you again for so generously sharing your expertise 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Being a “creative” writer, I’ve certainly embraced creative as imagination-based, as well as exploratory structure. I like the understanding of creative as storytelling techniques. Life writing — interesting! I hadn’t heard of it yet. When I was in college I fell in love with “nature writing” which was everything from Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang (fiction) to Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim on Tinker Creek (which is still listed as nature writing on Amazon, but weirdly is also listed as theology).

  13. susansleggs says:

    This line of comments makes me feel like I just finished a class on definitions. Thank you. I know understand the difference between memoir and BOTS. I have written down McCourt and Karr for my next trip to the library. Now I will head to Irene’s page to share my sisters memories of the acre of pine trees my parents owned; the best place in town to play….

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha! I love when these discussions open up because I feel like I learn so much from the back and forth clarifications and ponderings. It’s beneficial for us to have so many writers with different backgrounds and genres. I look forward to learning more about this acre of pines for playing!

  14. bowmanauthor says:

    Robbie, I consider my book “Annie Story, Blessed With A Gift” as BOTS (based on a true story). Historical fiction via a past-life regression. Some people may think I’m pushing BOTS a bit, but if you’d experienced what I experienced, you’d at least consider it, I think. I answer Robbie because I know she just finished reading my book. The FOREWORD tells of my story during my training as an ACPH (Advanced Certified Psychological Hypnotherapist) by The National Guild of Hypnotists, USA. I received 100% legitimate information, including the names of towns one of which I’d never heard of, historical persons I didn’t know existed, and other facts that I verified after research.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Deborah. That could open up another aspect to BOTS. I once worked with an author who was shopping a manuscript about a near-death experience and its impact on her life. There’s an entire genre of parapsychology.

      • bowmanauthor says:

        Yes, I’m very familiar with it. I love paranormal twists and alternate realities. I think it’s very different from fantasy and even SciFi. I love the psychological and scientific element. The classics in SciFi turned out NOT to be fictional, just before their time.

  15. […] Waters for Times Past: Trees. Be sure to catch her monthly series at Carrot Ranch. She discusses dialog in memoir this […]

  16. realmaven18 says:

    Sensational insight

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