Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Dialog Writing in Your Memoirs



When I first bought character actor Stephen Tobolowsky’s book “The Dangerous Animals Club” I didn’t initially realize that it was a memoir. (If you don’t know Stephen’s name, you probably know his face because he’s been in over 200 movies – from Mississippi Burning to Memento.) Each chapter is a separate story, (some quite amusing) yet there are larger interconnecting narratives that weave together from the book’s beginning to end. From the very first chapter I instantly recognized Stephen as a gifted storyteller and was more than happy to read about his various experiences -including many from his 30 years in the entertainment industry.

When reading a book such as this, I’m always intrigued by the authors ability to either recall or write detailed dialog. I have a million stories I could write about, but how does one remember exactly what so and so said? If one does not have the memory of an elephant and did not take explicitly detailed notes at the time of the event, does the author simply use artistic license and make things up? I’d be concerned that I’d receive a phone call from Great Aunt Hilde screaming at me something along the lines of, “I never said that you should buy the tuna, It’s always been the cod!”

If you’ve ever penned a short story using actual events from your life, how did you go about writing the character dialog? If not, we can each check out the advice offered at the links below.

Can You Make Up Dialogue In Memoirs Or Nonfiction Books? at Writer’s Relief

Writing a Memoir Like a Novel: Dialogue at This New Mountain


One thought on “Dialog Writing in Your Memoirs

  1. You might be interested to read “H H H H” by Laurent Binet. It is a novel about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 but it in lures the author’s thoughts as he wonders how to describe things like conversations between the people involved. Such things were not recorded so Binet agonises over how to include them without reducing the real people to mere characters.
    I am currently writing a series of stories about the people of my home town during the First World War using reports from the local newspapers. For example 3 boys were charged with using metal bottle tops which they had flattened on the tram lines as pennies to cheat vending machines. I have to invent a scene, including dialogues, where they come with and carry out the plan. Not quite memoirs but the same sort of considerations.

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