Identifying my book as a memoir versus a novel.

by Charles
(Berlin, NJ, USA)

Question: Taken directly from my journals detailing true misadventures involving drug-addicted prostitutes over a two year period, though therefore properly a memoir, can I/should I refer to it as a novel on the title page?


Answer: With only a few details to go on...

It really depends on the degree to which the story is fictionalized.

For instance, if the events are essentially accurate, according to your memory, and only the names are changed, that argues for calling it a memoir.

On the other hand, if you have changed many of the events, reshaped them to create a more dramatically sound plot structure, changed or amalgamated characters, created new characters, changed the setting, or changed the ending then you are moving closer to creating a work of fiction, and therefore a novel.

It's really a matter of degree. For instance, Jack Kerouac's book "On the Road" is usually referred to as a novel, even though there is a case for calling it a memoir, since it is based on his real experiences with his friends.

If, as you say, your book is "taken directly" from your notes, then perhaps it is a memoir. But if you've changed a lot to make a better story then perhaps it is a novel. Only you know for sure how biographical it is.

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