May 17, 2016

Memoir: 6 Tips To Avoid Angry Friends and Family

FreeImages.com/PB van Geelen
Writing about your life can be a tricky business.  What do you share?  What do you keep private?

No matter what you decide, someone will probably be upset with you.  I've heard many writers say:  "I'm afraid of what my mother (or father, sister, brother, grandparent, friends, etc.) will say if I write the truth."

There's a great scene in the movie, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, where the protagonist, Siddalee Walker played by Sandra Bullock, deals with her mother's angry reaction to a truthful interview. Although this is a comedy, her mother's response is exactly the one most writers fear.

Experiences like the one in the movie, might leave you asking the question:
How do you decide whether to write the truth or not?

You have to believe that your message will help others, not just you, in being made public.  You have to be willing to face your friends and family afterward. Many people have published their memoirs, exposing skeletons in their closets.  I've even done it in my other blog.

If the memoir bug has you hooked, here are a few tips that might help you survive the experience:

1.  Use a pen name.  This is the easiest approach but don't be fooled.  If your book receives a lot of attention, people close to you will figure it out.  Still, it's a common way to write and maintain a private life instead of a public life.

2. Change the names of the characters in your story.  We've all seen the statement:  "Names have been changed to protect the innocent."  Again, you won't fool those directly affected by your story, but you do allow them a bit more privacy in their own lives.

3. Let those affected read the story in advance. This can work for you as long as you realize they will ask you to make changes.  Before you let family and friends read it, ask yourself how you will respond to that request.

4. Wait until the major players in your story have died. Some people will see this as the coward's way out, but it does prevent the nasty fallout you might experience otherwise.

5. Fictionalize the story.  If you change just enough to make it fiction, people can't complain. The characters and events will not be exact copies. I've done this with a few short stories. Not because of fearing others reactions; people didn't believe the truth. Once I changed a few details to make it fiction, they accepted the story. Truth is stranger than fiction.

6.  Just write it and prepare to live with the consequences.  This might be the most common approach. You will want a good support group ready for when you need them.

If you have a fantastic story that will help others, you can gain a lot from writing your memoir, so if it's in you to do it, then go for it.  Just be prepared for the fallout.

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