Monday, 1 December 2008

Big Fish

One of my favourite movies (I should get the book) is Big Fish, a story about a son who has issues with his father's tall tales. He couldn't take his dad seriously throughout life, and near the end finds out the true value of a good storyteller, whether the stories are exaggerated or not.

Memoir writers draw from their own experiences to write their books. Maybe they keep journals, or some might have superior memories. Some of them have great stories to tell, like John Elder Robison's Look Me In The Eye. Others exaggerate and pass off their lies as truth.

Not all of us have spectacular lives to draw from, so we use our memories as building blocks to create fiction. A memoir can be a simple account of an interesting life, or jazzed up with dialogue and incredible detail.

How accurate can we possibly be if we are writing a memoir? While some authors can recall past experiences with crystal clarity, I have a hard time remembering what I ate for dinner last night. I guess that's why I'd rather use mere snapshots of my life as a resource for my fiction. That way, I can embellish to my heart's content. Within reason, of course.

How big is your fish?

Image: Ridley likes fishing shows and hockey.


Judith Leger said...

Dinner last night? Hee, I can't even remember to change my clogs for my work shoes before I leave the house.

Nope, no memoirs for me.

kerribookwriter said...

Hey Sandra!

Just received my copy of Bad Ice and I cannot wait to read it!

Regarding "Big Fish"...had to comment that it was filmed in my hometown here in Alabama. Can you believe it? Small world!

Regarding hubby just bought me the ginormous (is that a word? if not, it should be!) book that asks you questions about your life. You are supposed to answer all the questions and then you'll have your own autobiography. I've done the first page. LOL Just call me speedy gonzales!

Hope all is well with you and your family.

Hugs from 30 degree "sunny" south,

bunnygirl said...

Sometimes I think I'm more of a collector of other people's interesting real-life stories than a creator of my own. My own life isn't so terribly interesting but I love to hear good stories and use them as starting points for my fiction.

moonrat said...

I love tall tales. So much of my family history is made up of them, and I think most families are like that. My fish is reeeeeally big.

pjd said...

Yeah, that's a great movie. Fortunately, my fish is not that big, but my life is filled with big fish that got away. Or rather, I like to think it is.

I don't read much memoir, but I assume it's embellished at least. Remember that eyewitness accounts of an accident will vary widely even just a half hour after the event. I know that my wife and I have differing accounts of several momentous events from the last 20 years, and we each believe 100% that our own is the right version.

Barbara Martin said...

My life has had many life changing situations, but I'm not so certain others would want to read about them.

Travis Erwin said...

I am actually writing a memoir right now. Sort of a coming of age story that I'd say is David Sedaris meets Jeff Foxworthy.

If I can manage to be only half as funny as those guys it just might work. we'll have to see.

Kanani said...

How big is my fish?
Well, did I ever tell you about the time I went to Alaska and ended up trawling for Halibut?

I'm not sure there's an answer for your question. I suppose if 1. I had some unique experience that would change people's lives or 2. could help them live better ones in a number of ways, or 3. I slept with George Clooney, then I could write a memoir.

Well, don't rule the 3rd one out. :)

spyscribbler said...

How big is my fish?

I can't remember. :-) Seriously, though, I don't think I could write memoir at all. Plus my life is not that interesting, LOL.

pjd said...

Sort of a coming of age story that I'd say is David Sedaris meets Jeff Foxworthy.

Gay redneck coming of age memoir?

Holy smokes.

Or do you mean that at some point in your life you actually witnessed David Sedaris meeting Jeff Foxworthy, and it was life changing for you?

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Anybody who thinks their lives aren't interesting enough to write about can always take bits and put them into fiction. It's okay, I won't tell!

Sedaris and Foxworthy? Talk about worlds colliding.

In The Toast Bitches, the main character is a mixture of Tina Fey's Liz Lemon and Kim Cattral's Samantha Jones. Clueless but ready to try anything.

And it's NOT biographical!

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Judy, I once wore my bedroom slippers to work by accident.

Hmm... maybe I should put that in my memoirs.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Kerri, I hope you enjoy the book. It's cool that Big Fish was shot in your neck of the woods.

Queen of the Road said...

When I wrote my memoir, I was fortunate, as during the experience I was writing about, I took copious notes and blogged, always hoping I'd get a book published. I can't imagine how people write about their childhoods - I can't even remember where I parked my car when I go the the grocery store. And, I have to say, I was rather surprised when my publisher didn't ask for any supporting documentation - you know, gas station receipts, emergency room records, police reports. Guess I can throw 'em out, now.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I kept notes of my visit with my father in Algeria when I was a teenager, but the notebook disappeared into the void that is the Cormier homestead.

I didn't even have a decent camera back then!

So, I have to rely on my memories.

BernardL said...

Writing a memoir at all means you believe your life to be extraordinary enough to attract readers interested in reading about it. I'd never get past that fact in the manuscript. :)

jason evans said...

Memoirs must be so intimidating to write. How can we be sure that our lives are interesting enough for others to dive into to that extent?

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

A lot of us are under the impression that our lives aren't interesting, but we can draw from seemingly ordinary experiences to create our stories.

Sure, I lived in Spain when I was a teenager. It may seem boring to a Spanish person, but to a Canadian who has never traveled, it's interesting.

To me, Niagara Falls is a pleasant diversion on the drive to Buffalo. To others it's an experience of a lifetime.

Stuff doesn't have to be life changing, just entertaining.

michelletrudeau said...

Hi Sandra would comment but i am too enwrapped in this awsome book called Bad

I have ever met my Grand Parents on my fathers side. Although I have many Big Fish stories from the 1930's and on...Funny thing they have somehow given me a connection to something I never knew. So big or little every story has significance whether personal or imaginary....

thanks again for the book!

wordtryst said...

I don't think memoirs need to be about extraordinary lives; these are fine, but finding the extraordinary within the ordinary can also be fascinating and/or entertaining. Who would have thought that the small daily dramas of a housewife and mother would make best-seller material? But sometimes they do. (Ask Erma Bombeck.)

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Don't forget the guy who wrote Marley and Me - about his dog.

And that's gonna be a movie with Jennifer Aniston. Sheesh!

Which reminds me... I have a dog story.

Liane, I just got an email that your book will be shipped to me soon. Can't wait!

writtenwyrdd said...

I don't think a memoir about my life would be very interesting. But then I don't usually like memoirs at all and run the other way when one is offered.

writtenwyrdd said...
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