Should I Fictionalize My Memoir?
Does this sound familiar?
Most of the ghostwriting requests I get are from people who want to share their life story. It’s definitely a good indication if many people are pushing you in that direction.
At some stage in the process a person consider writing a book will decide it’s time to pick up the phone and ask for advice from a professional.
Fictionalizing your life story
Once a person has decided to write their memoir, one of the first questions they face is, “Can I fictionalize a memoir?”
That’s a good question! And as you might guess, the answer really depends on you and your project.
I will say that it’s always more appealing to readers to learn that a story is completely true (unaltered). Readers love stepping into the author’s shoes for that brief moment of their life. However, there are reasons why you might not be able to stick to the complete truth.
When you should fictionalize a memoir?
Are you in the middle of this internal debate? If so, here are a few reasons why you might choose to fictionalize your memoir:
- Bluntly, your story just isn’t interesting enough. I tend to be rather straightforward, so I apologize if I’ve offended you. It’s just that there are stories that are fascinating and others which might make a good short story, or as a fellow ghostwriter and good friend of mine would say, “That sounds like a newspaper article!” If you need to add some content and pizzazz, consider turning your book into a novel that’s just based on your life story.
- You’d really like to add in a space ship or two. There are times when you might like to alter history a bit. Most fictionalized memoirs don’t enter the realm of science fiction, but there might be a few tales you wish to add to your story, which never really happened.
- Your family would never speak to you again if you aired your dirty laundry. It’s easy to disguise most people’s identities in your book by simply using an alias. It is common to change names, or even just use Dr. Q. instead of Dr. Quincy, to protect the identity of a character. However, your brother is your brother and there is no way to get around that. Your family is more than likely to know whom you’re talking about if you discuss your brother, as they know him just as well as you do.
- You’re a stickler for details and it’s all just overwhelming. Most people fudge the facts a bit in a memoir, not worrying if Grand Central Station was truly crowded on Christmas Eve back in 1965. It’s hard to remember such a minor detail and the small handful of people that do probably won’t make a ruckus if you get it wrong. Still, if some of these facts are important to you and you don’t want to worry about getting them all correct, why not turn your memoir into a novel?
Of course, in the end the decision to fictionalize your memoir is up to you. If you have a fascinating story, one that works as is, keep it nonfiction. When you can keep the real timeline in tact and still have a fascinating story, it’s the best course of action.
Still unsure? Feel free to give me a email me if you need a sounding board!
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