Memoir – Betrayal and how personal do you need to be?

When writing memoir, how to work with your family members and/or friends is always a consideration. Should you even tell them you are writing? If you do, how much should you let them influence you? I saw the following post on a Facebook memoir writers group I am in:

How to Tell Your Family That You’re Writing a Memoir by Neal Thompson

This is a perennially big topic. If you are writing controversial elements or exposing personal details about others, you need to determine why you want to include those parts. Are they necessary to the story? Do you really need to get graphic or will general statements do? If you really need to tell that information, how willing are you to be shunned by family or friends who might be offended or even horrified by your invasion of their privacy?

When you really need to tell unpleasant stories about others, do make them well-rounded characters. Consider what made them behave that way, and consider they are not all bad and that maybe you were not completely innocent. Revenge memoirs can easily backfire and reflect badly on you instead of the other.

If you need to include uncomfortable private details involving others, think about how you can avoid TMI (too much information). “Need” means this information is integral to the reason you are writing the memoir, and leaving it out would affect the story line. How much do you really “need” to tell? Are you being gratuitous or salacious? Some readers might love that, but will your family? Maybe you want to change the names or create composite characters (note this in the front matter). Will you write under a fictitious name and never tell your family? Also consider the readership – do you want your present and future family (including teens and the elders) to read it?

If you are writing a memoir to include stories your family or friends might not like, how are you handling it? Are you even going to tell them?


How much do you need to show?


About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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