Thanks to Yahoo news, I don't live completely under a rock. Today I learned that readers who bought James Frey's memoir, A Million Little Pieces, won a lawsuit so they can get their money back. You see, the book, a memoir, if you recall, was not 100% gospel truth.
Hmm. A memoir. A personal recollection. A telling of the events in one's life.
I dare you to go sit down and write out your life. Too much? OK, write out a small portion of it. Maybe an intense period. I don't really care; just do it.
Done already? Wow, you write fast. So you've written this out. Now go fact check it. Did you maybe, just maybe, embellish a little something in the process? You live a pretty dull life, don't you? Maybe you wanted to add a bit of zing, wanted to cast yourself as a hero--let's face it, we all want to. So you misrepresented things a bit.
That's bad. Very bad. You'd better hope you don't ever get published, don't ever get famous, and for the love of god, don't get on Oprah's bad side. Because that could haunt you, and your publisher could get sued, and that might make your publisher angry, but more than that, it could make your readers angry and hurt and betrayed. Poor babies. They might even sue.
Because autobiography has to be 100% fact. No omissions, no fabrications. Pure fact.
In other words, readers expect the impossible.