Writing in Another Person’s Voice

Writing in Another Person’s Voice
It’s easy to become part of interesting discussions on social networking sites and, of course, we always invite you to ask questions or contribute thoughts on our WriteMyMemoirs page on Facebook. Over on LinkedIn recently, on a page called “Women’s Memoirs,??? a member asked for advice about writing a memoir for her deceased brother. She wanted to write it in his voice and wondered how to go about doing that.
I understand the desire to do this for someone you’ve lost, but ultimately I don’t believe it’s fair unless it was discussed at length before the person’s death. It’s one thing to be the ghostwriter—please forgive the apt term in this case—when all you’re doing is putting down on paper what the person had intended to write himself if he hadn’t run out of time or been too weak or whatever kept him from completing his memoir. But it’s another thing to take it upon yourself to write in his voice just because you think he might have liked that or for your own satisfaction.
The special nature of a memoir is that it’s so much a piece of us. We each have a voice. When that voice is silenced, I don’t believe anyone else has a right to assume it. If you want to do that, then you should call your book “fiction??? or “fictionalized history.??? Otherwise, my advice to that man’s sister is to focus her own memoir on her memories of her brother. That’s fair.

It’s easy to become part of interesting discussions on social networking sites and, of course, we always invite you to ask questions or contribute thoughts on our WriteMyMemoirs page on Facebook. Over on LinkedIn recently, on a page called “Women’s Memoirs,??? a member asked for advice about writing a memoir for her deceased brother. She wanted to write it in his voice and wondered how to go about doing that.

I understand the desire to do this for someone you’ve lost, but ultimately I don’t believe it’s fair unless it was discussed at length before the person’s death. It’s one thing to be the ghostwriter—please forgive the apt term in this case—when all you’re doing is putting down on paper what the person had intended to write himself if he hadn’t run out of time or been too weak or whatever kept him from completing his memoir. But it’s another thing to take it upon yourself to write in his voice just because you think he might have liked that or for your own satisfaction.

The special nature of a memoir is that it’s so much a piece of us. We each have a voice. When that voice is silenced, I don’t believe anyone else has a right to assume it. If you want to do that, then you should call your book “fiction??? or “fictionalized history.??? Otherwise, my advice to that man’s sister is to focus her own memoir on her memories of her brother. That’s fair.