Isn’t it funny that often our version of an experience is very different to another person’s version of the very same experience? Let’s say for example, you and your sibling are recalling something that happened in your family a few years ago. Don’t you relate your experience in a very different way from your sibling. Each of you remember details that the other doesn’t. Sometimes this might lead to arguments. At other times, it might add to the fun of a story.
Your Story Versus Your Experience
My Dad came from a large family of fifteen siblings and it was always fun to hang around listening to stories from their childhood. Often these were repeated when they all met together. There were stories I associated with a particular uncle or aunt. Or one of them told the same story in much more interesting and fun way. Sometimes, someone would add a little tidbit of information or a detail that got left out from previous telling of the same incident. Jill Christman writes about one of her family stories here, the retelling of it.
The story we think we know has more to do with the telling, and retelling, than it does with memory.– Jill Christman
This is a cute story from my family which I heard a few years ago.
Two cousins were showing off that they knew a smattering of French and started talking to each other in French in front of two of my uncles. To get even, and since they were both altar boys, one of the uncles started rattling off the Latin Mass* and the other started responding!
I remember a particular evening when these two of my uncles were telling us this story. The uncles were insisting that they had fooled the cousins into thinking that they too spoke a foreign language. But one of the cousins present said she had not been fooled beyond the first response! This led to a lot of teasing and laughter!
What About Our Stories As Writers?
As writers of non-fiction, especially memoir writing, it becomes very important for us to be aware that our actual experience and the telling of it might differ. Yes, we can plead that there’s creative licence to embellish a story. But we must be aware that our version of the ‘truth’ might be different from another person’s version of it.
We must try to fact-check our stories as much as possible or make sure we tell our readers that this our version of an experience.
*For those of you who are not aware, the Catholic Mass has a very scripted formula of rote prayers and responses and until the early 1960s it was always in Latin.