Putting Other People in Your Memoir

Your story is yours to tell, and no one can take that away from you. But everyone’s story involves other people. It’s very common for memoir authors to be concerned about their rights and obligations surrounding the role other people have played in their lives, especially if the memoir depicts a negative impact. We’ve addressed this issue previously on Write My Memoirs here and here.

So we’ve talked about legal aspects, but what about the ethical ones? And how will your memoir change your relationships? Even the relatives you didn’t include may be upset with you about what you did write. Your aunt, not mentioned at all in your memoir, may never speak to you again because you wrote negatively about your mother, who was her sister. Perhaps your mother is no longer alive, and your aunt feels that you shouldn’t write about someone who cannot defend herself. Or maybe even though your memoir concerns your early life, your current adult children would prefer you to keep your story to yourself. Perhaps they’re embarrassed by something you’ve written, or they don’t want to be forced to become public figures if your book sells well.

Memoir authors and coaches have opinions all across the board on this, but I haven’t seen anyone make the point that social media has completely changed this game. You have chosen the memoir as your forum. You’ll have it in book form, or ebook only or whatever you want. But everyone who objects to what you’ve written has many opportunities to refute what’s in your book. Facebook, Twitter and the rest provide a forum for everyone. As long as you write the truth as you know it—and it’s a good idea to have some sort of disclaimer saying in your book that the information is accurate to the best of your memory—then you should present your life the way you want. Be prepared for some pushback, but this is your story. The other people can tweet about it to defend themselves.