Why Truth is More Important than Facts in Your Memoir Writing

One of the ways of sharing a deeply personal experience is writing a memoir; offering the opportunity to share unique insights, and truth with the world. But in the process of recounting our stories, how important are the facts? Today’s article stems from the query posed by one of our YouTube subscribers regarding the level of accuracy required when recounting historical events in a memoir. The challenge intensifies with the passage of time, as memories from distant periods lack the immediacy and verifiability afforded by contemporary sources such as social media. While recent events may be readily corroborated, older recollections demand a different approach, especially when records are scarce or nonexistent. How then do we navigate the terrain of historical accuracy, and to what extent do these facts shape the narrative? In this discussion, we explore the distinction between facts and truth, unraveling why the latter holds greater significance in memoir writing.

If you’re embarking on the journey of writing a memoir but find yourself unsure of where to begin and uncertain about the path ahead, know that you’re not alone. Many individuals stumble when they lack a clear plan for their memoir projects, despite their deep passion for the endeavor. Recognizing this common hurdle, my team has developed the Memoir Method Checklist. This free resource is designed to guide you through every stage of the memoir-writing process, complete with a timeline, from the inception of your idea to the gratifying moment of holding your finished book in your hands. To access this invaluable tool, simply visit page&podium.com/checklist. Wishing you joy and fulfilment in your writing journey!

What is the Difference between Truths and Facts?

A fact is inherently something known or proven to be true. Consider the process of proving something: it naturally leads to specificity. The broader a statement, the easier it becomes for someone to challenge it with exceptions or alternative perspectives. Thus, facts are typically precise and specific, making them easier to verify.

Contrastingly, truth encompasses the broader reality of events, things, and facts. Despite the interchangeability of ‘truth’ and ‘facts’ in conversation, a critical distinction exists. Facts are about provability, about making a case that is widely agreeable, even if not universally so. In contrast, truth emphasizes the sense of reality, often subjective and abstract.

While facts demand objectivity, truth embraces subjectivity. What feels real to one person may not resonate with another, highlighting the subjective nature of truth. This distinction is pivotal in understanding the nuances of our perceptions.

For instance, let’s examine the experience of sexism. Entering into specifics often reduces the room for arguments, yet people can still find ways to dispute even the most detailed accounts. Consider the statistic that women, on average, earn 16% less than men in the same job. While statistically accurate, it overlooks the diverse experiences within the category of ‘women.’ Factors like race, disability, and body size can significantly impact the extent of pay discrimination experienced.

While statistical averages provide factual evidence, they fail to capture the multifaceted reality of discrimination. Personal experiences of discrimination can vary widely, making it challenging to quantify and prove conclusively. As we explore deeper into personal experiences and their cumulative effects, we move away from objective facts and towards subjective truths.

Some may argue that subjective truths lack persuasiveness or significance compared to objective facts. However, in contexts like memoirs, subjective truths hold immense value. Memoirs offer insights into personal truths and experiences, enriching our understanding of the human condition beyond mere factual accounts.

In summary, while facts offer precision and objectivity, truths delve into the broader realm of subjective reality. Understanding and appreciating both perspectives are essential for a comprehensive grasp of any subject matter.

The Interplay between Factual Details and Deeper Emotional Truth

In memoirs, we share our personal experiences, our truths. These truths aren’t necessarily provable in the same way facts are, but that doesn’t diminish their significance. Unlike facts, which are concrete and verifiable, truths in memoirs are subjective and deeply personal.

That’s not to say memoirs lack factual elements. Quite the contrary, they often include factual details like dates of significant events such as the start of a new job, the birth of a child, or a wedding. These facts serve as a foundation upon which the narrative of truth is built. While they provide a framework for understanding the story, they aren’t the primary focus for the reader.

For example, if a memoirist mentions getting married in 1982 and having the first child ten years later in 1992, it may pique the reader’s curiosity. The specific timeline sets the stage for deeper exploration into the reasons behind such a gap. In this way, facts act as scaffolding upon which the richer truth can be erected.

In memoirs, the essence lies in uncovering deeper truths, ones that resonate on a more universal level. While it may be statistically improbable for every reader to have experienced the exact same events, the emotional truths behind those events are far more relatable. Delving into the motivations, doubts, and aspirations behind life’s milestones, such as marriage and parenthood, reveals a truth that transcends individual experiences.

By embracing these universal truths, memoirs become a conduit for building connections and fostering empathy. They invite readers to step into the author’s shoes, to see the world through their eyes, and to recognize their own reflections in the shared experiences. In this way, memoirs create a sense of community, where individuals from diverse backgrounds can come together under the umbrella of truth, acknowledging each other’s stories and finding common ground amidst their differences.

How to Include Truth and Fact into Your Memoir

As you think about these two perspectives, there’s a need to understand specific strategies for intertwining facts with truth in your memoir. Should facts ever supersede truth or can they coexist harmoniously? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Incorporate Historical Facts

Incorporating historical facts can help enrich your memoir and captivate your readers. Allow me to illustrate with an example from a memoir I ghostwrote for a client set in Chicago, the author’s hometown. Beyond recounting her personal journey in the city, she aimed to tap into universal truths.

Digging deep into Chicago’s history, we unearthed significant events that shaped the city. By intertwining these historical facts with her narrative, she drew compelling parallels. For instance, we stumbled upon a tragic incident in the 1980s involving a child recruited by drug dealers, whose fate eerily mirrored the author’s own experiences. This poignant connection allowed readers to empathize and find resonance in her story.

Incorporating such facts doesn’t merely entail listing dates and places; it’s about weaving them seamlessly into your narrative. Whether discussing workplace sexism or mental health issues, factual details lend credibility and depth to your truth. Hybrid memoirs, blending storytelling with advice, benefit from factual underpinnings, amplifying the broader message for readers.

However, while facts bolster truth, they mustn’t overshadow it. Striking a delicate balance ensures your narrative remains authentic and relatable, resonating deeply with your audience.

  • Never Allow a Fact to Derail Your Truth

Here’s another essential tip: never allow a fact derail your truth. While facts can certainly bolster our narratives, if they threaten to undermine the authenticity of our experiences, they’re best left aside. Let me illustrate this with an enlightening example from a memoir I coached years ago, where the author recounted his upbringing as a Black individual in LA.

In his memoir, he vividly recalled a pivotal moment: watching a basketball game interrupted by the infamous OJ Simpson Bronco chase. However, upon fact-checking, we discovered a discrepancy. The game he remembered didn’t align with the date of the chase. Faced with this dilemma, the author made a deliberate choice—to prioritize the truth of his memory over factual accuracy.

This decision, while seemingly insignificant to most readers, was paramount to preserving the integrity of his narrative. Ultimately, it’s the emotional resonance and authenticity of our stories that resonate with audiences, not minute factual details. So, when crafting your memoir, remember to prioritize truth over specificity, ensuring your narrative remains compelling and relatable.

What You Shouldn’t Do with Truth and Fact in Your Memoir

One major thing you never do with truths and facts is to never sacrifice a memory just because it doesn’t neatly align with the facts. What truly matters isn’t the factual minutiae but rather the authenticity of your truth. Your goal is to capture what resonates as genuine to you, aligning with your memories while still maintaining a semblance of harmony with factual reality.

Readers aren’t fixated on the specifics of every fact; they’re seeking the emotional resonance of your story. So, don’t get bogged down in an exhaustive pursuit of factual accuracy. However, a word of caution is warranted. Recent history has seen memoirists facing backlash for embellishing or distorting the truth. Let’s be clear: that’s not acceptable. Marketing your memoir as non-fiction certifies its authenticity, and any deliberate manipulation of events for marketing purposes is a breach of trust with your readers.

For example, altering timelines to fit a desired narrative is a slippery slope into manipulation, and it undermines both facts and truth. Skimming over less eventful periods in your story is acceptable as long as you’re not fabricating or distorting the timeline. Remember, your truth is valid, but altering facts to fit a narrative compromises the integrity of your memoir.

In essence, prioritize truth over factual precision. Your memoir should be a sincere invitation to readers into your lived experiences, fostering genuine connection and insight. While you can supplement your narrative with additional facts, they should never dictate or distort the truth of your story. Stay true to your authentic voice, and your memoir will resonate powerfully with your audience.

Final Thoughts

I trust this article has provided valuable insights for you. Should you find yourself grappling with the myriad aspects involved in your journey forward, don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether you seek personalised guidance or wish to entrust your book to our ghostwriting services, we’re here to assist you every step of the way. Additionally, if you’re a woman interested in our memoir method, keep an eye out for upcoming openings, or join the waitlist at page&podium.com/apply.

For further details on our services and how we can tailor them to your needs, please visit our website. Your satisfaction is our priority, and we’re eager to support you in any capacity necessary.

As you continue delving into the depths of truth within your memoir, may you find it both enriching and motivating. Here’s to your memoir unfolding just as envisioned, providing the clarity and healing you seek. Wishing you smooth sailing with your writing endeavors, and I look forward to connecting with you again soon.

Writing your memoir can offer profound rewards and fulfillment, yet it can also feel overwhelming without proper planning. That’s why our team has crafted the Memoir Method Checklist, a comprehensive tool designed to guide you through every stage of the memoir-writing process, from inception to publication. This checklist provides clear steps and a timeline to ensure you stay on track and informed at every turn. Download this invaluable resource for free at pageandpodium.com/checklist, and please share your thoughts with me once you’ve had the chance to explore it. I’m eager to hear about your book and how your writing journey unfolds.

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Amanda Edgar

Dr. Amanda Nell Edgar is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and book coach and the founder of Page & Podium Press. Co-author of the forthcoming Summer of 2020: George Floyd and the Resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Amanda has authored two nationally award-winning books and ghostwritten many more.

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