Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

When writing an autobiography, there are so many decisions to be made, some which can make or break a book:
Which stories should I tell, which people should I include, and which should I omit?
Who will I upset and who will I infuriate?
How do I balance exposition and editorializing?
How will readers respond?
How will my son feel about this book when he reads it one day?
By the time the final draft was finished, there was only one thing that mattered to me: writing the most honest, accurate account of my story that I could.

1. Gratuitous Inclusion:  "Why didn't you mention me in your book?"  This was a complaint I heard dozens of times after my first book, The Story of a Nobody and the Pursuit to Become a Somebody, was released.  It made me feel bad even though I did everything I could to include as many names as possible.  But the fact of the matter is that I just can't include everyone.  I tried to omit everything from this version of my story that didn't serve the story itself.  That meant I had to leave out a lot of people, even some close friends.

2. Conspicuous Omission:  A couple of times, I left out last names.  While I want my story to be told as honestly and accurately as memory will allow, I also don't want to end up the victim of a he-said, she-said lawsuit in court.

3. Politically Incorrect:  I don't want to insult anyone, especially someone who will devote their time and money to reading my story.  But the whole political correctness movement turns my stomach--it doesn't exist in countries that have war and famine because those people have too many real problems to worry about.  I just told my story knowing that it will offend some people because I refused to play it safe and risk diluting my original meaning.

4. "The Morning Dew Clung to the Spring-Awakened Lilacs":  Books are filled with similes, metaphors, and imagery.  That's terrific, but it often gets in the way of the story.  I used description when necessary but tried to keep it brief.  I'm looking to connect with an audience, not win book awards.

5. How Dare You?:  My first book upset a handful of people.  I can't blame them; unless an author's autobiography is a 250-page pile of Soft-Serve bullshit, there are going to be people who aren't happy about it.  The Somebody Obsession will likely upset even more people, and those who were moderately agitated the first time will probably be even more pissed off this time.  I didn't add one word to this book for the sake of vengeance or controversy.  But the truth will hurt some people.  I didn't feel much of an emotional connection to my memories when I wrote the first version.  I stated memories matter-of-factly without much reflection on how those events actually affected me.  That's certainly not the case this time; because of that, I'm sure I'll feel the aftershocks for a long time.

No comments:

Post a Comment