Literary (Creative Nonfiction) Docu-Memoir: A Different Way of Writing a Life

Jo (Joan-) Annette Parnell

Abstract


Pioneered by the British writer Tony Parker, literary docu-memoir is a rare form that involves the creative nonfiction writer interviewing and audio-taping ordinary people for their unusual life experience as the resource material for a literary production. In everyday conversation, people use a language of their own making to make sense of their experiences for themselves and the person they are talking to. The literary docu-memoir brings out a deeper level of meaning in the speech and the reflections of ordinary people as elicited by the docu-memoirist.

In this paper l offer a working definition, and discuss how I evolved the form adapted from that of Parker to fit my own work on care leavers. There are urgent ethical issues in relation to making public distressing episodes from the subjects' lives, and for the writer in relation to readers. In a fictionalised documentary, how does the writer make clear where the boundary lies between fiction and fact, and verbatim and edited testimony? There are also literary questions: How much should the researcher appear in the narrative? How to use the powerful raw material, and recreate the subject’s experience, in a way that readers can access the essence of that experience?


This article was submitted to the EJLW on 14 August 2014 and published on 29 October 2014.

 


Keywords


Literary docu-memoir; new form; first-person writing; writing lives; personal histories; affective states.

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5463/ejlw.3.136

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European Journal of Life Writing - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by the VU University Library.