Belief

The narrative writing that works best for me portrays a chunk of experience and makes me believe that this really happened, this is true. However, being honest as a writer and creating belief for the reader may be slightly different. Many writers of personal narrative believe that they must stick only to precisely remembered, detailed fact. ("I can't include that detail because I'm not sure of exactly what I said, and I don't remember what I was wearing") Keep in mind, however, that writing a nonfiction narrative about something that happened in your life will not result in an exact report of what really happened; you will omit some details, select only certain facts, forget some emotions, and misremember more than you realize. No matter how hard you try to get it right, you will distort, modify, and, in effect, lie. It is unavoidable. Writing can represent reality; it can never replicate it.

The trick is to remember as best you can and be willing to recreate to fill gaps. If you don't remember exactly what you said, you might recreate dialogue that is approximate, typical of you, close to what you might have said; if you don't remember the exact shoes you wore on that hot Thursday, you might remember shoes you could have worn, and what they looked like and how they felt. If this sounds devious, consider that we do it all the time when we tell oral stories.

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