There are many ways to tell a story. There is the voice of authority presumed to accurate due to being confirmed by the illustrious they or them. He, she, or they said. And how often was the reporter/storyteller actually present. This voice is not one that takes as much responsibility for accuracy as the first person. And in this case, there is still the choice of past or present tense where the writer invites the reader to accompany them back in time to more directly experience what happened or at least to what they think happened.
And here is the problem in all storytelling and in every type of writing for even reporting is storytelling. No “fact” is ever published or increasingly even uttered without consideration of the optics or way it will be perceived. Many of our role models are increasingly more concerned with optics than factual accuracy. Annual reports are like giant commercials. The news seems designed to inflame or do whatever it takes to gain attention. Advertising is the largest business model even for new tech companies. It is getting challenging to access the accuracy of anything heard or read. Even photographs are more often photoshop airbrushed to look fantastic but not necessarily honest. Pitch correction technology has become so ubiquitous that everyone seemingly can sing or play perfectly. And people who do not look or sound as wonderful as the artificially enhanced depictions they are deluged with, are increasingly afraid to be alive and real for they can not compare to the unreality which has become standard. Our politicians and increasing our judges are owned by our businessmen just as much as our artists are owned by publicists. Reputation manipulation is regular business and now governance practice.
For me and most of the people I know, it has become incredibly difficult to know what the truth is in many situations. Although this is dangerous, there are plenty of honest and accurate situations, and they are the ones where we are personally present and can witness with our own eyes and ears and process with our own brains precisely what we are experiencing. This is the first person present tense and perhaps not coincidently it seems at least to me to be becoming the voice of the newest hottest branch of writing called Creative Nonfiction.
Nonfiction has traditionally been factual, authoritative, dry and therefore usually not as emotionally engaging as fiction unless of course, the facts are incredible which is sometimes the case. Creative Nonfiction seems to be the practice of increasing the emotional content of nonfiction by utilizing the literary devices of fiction. This is not an entirely new practice. Remember Ayn Rand, a philosopher who wrote many nonfiction books but achieved fame through her novels, which embodied her philosophies in the acts and personalities of her characters.
Perhaps memoirs told in the artist person are more honest if not the most accurate sources of information. My Mac’s dictionary defines memoirs as a historical account or biography is written from personal knowledge or special sources, with the synonyms: account, history, record, chronicle, narrative, story, portrayal, depiction, sketch, portrait, profile, biography, monograph or essay on an academic subject.
At least when one writes a memoir, it is usually in the first person, and presumably, the writer was there witnessing hopefully in their right mind, what was happening in their life. Could they be lying? Sure, but at least as the author they are taking responsibility for what they wrote, unlike most of the information coming to us these days.
If you were to write a memoir where you depicted someone as a jerk but their family members voiced their difference of opinion that this person, let’s call him uncle John, was a real gem and wonderful human being. You as the author could just say, that is not my recollection of John, as to me, he was a jerk. And no one could sue you for libel for it was your opinion which you are entitled to.
Well, if you were able to round up more people who knew John than perhaps it would be possible to tell if John was a Jerk or a Gem. Or maybe the only existing photo of John was photo-shopped, into an airbrushed perfection of a super kindly soul. Or maybe John was really good at faking wonderfulness. We can never know.
But increasingly I am going to look for first-person narratives where the author takes reasonability for what they say. Perhaps this is another reason why so many memoirs are written by people many years after their exciting experiences, with the first one being they were too busy living them to be writing.
Most memoirs may fall under the heading of Creative Nonfiction, so if you now have the time and the inclination to write your memoir and take reasonability for what you say for after all it is a subset of your personal recollections, and you had better write them down before you forget or enhance the details too much.