The Novel Versus The Memoir – Three Quick Things

As I’m struggling to revise my novel this spring, I’ve often thought of how difficult it is to write anything good, how I feel like a failure every time I write a new scene, every time my characters come off as one-demensional and static.  I’ve found that I can write some terrible dialogue.

“How are you?” he said.

“I am good,” she said.

He said, “I too am good.  How too are you too, really as well?”

“I really too am good really,” she said.  “Thank you for asking so much.  This weather is beautiful.”

“Yes it is beautiful really yes,” he said.  “How beautiful it really is just now in the morning now really.”

And suddenly I sound like an English language learner.

He said, “How now too pretty.”

“Pretty sometimes now and then,” she said. ” Just you know also?”

I mean I am STRUGGLING to write.  Suffering.

I catch myself using passive phrasing, cliche imagery, repeating motifs so many times that I see my reader picking up a handgun, waxing his mustache in the mirror before writing a “Kill Peter Brown Hoffmeister” note to himself with lipstick.

But as I was revising pages 107 to 132 this morning, I realized three distinct advantages to writing a novel versus a memoir:

1. I won’t implicate myself or my family this time.  Since this new work is fiction, it’s actually not me.  It’s not us.  Weird.

2.  In fiction, if I need an action, I just make it happen.  So many times while I was writing the memoir, I thought, “I wish I could have this character Peter pull out his tooth with a pair of pliers here,” or something along those line.  But unfortunately, I was never that hardcore.  Instead of a gun, I had a pellet gun.  Instead of friends, I had brothers and sisters.  Instead of being the toughest boy ever born, I might have picked my nose and bit my fingernails and cried a few times.  Okay, many many times.

3. When I publish this novel, I’m not likely to get hate mail, at least not from sane people.  I just heard that Karen Kingsbury had a Caribbean cruise for her fans where actors on the ship played the roles of characters from her novels, and her fans actually thought that the actors on the ship were the real characters in her books.  Wait, what am I talking about?  Okay, maybe I’ll get hate mail after I publish this book too.


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