Just Write

Real Names in Memoir?

When writing memoir, the question often comes up, should you use real names?

There are no cookie-cutter answers. No one-size-fits-all.

In “Between Two Kingdoms” Suleika Jaouad handled the situation by stating in the front of the book, “To preserve the anonymity of certain individuals, I modified identifying details and changed the following names, listed in alphabetical order: Dennis, Estelle, Jake, Joanie, Karen, Sean, and Will.”

Tara Westover, author of “Educated,” changed the first name of her parents and siblings.

Phuc Tran, author of “Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In” decided to keep “the real names of all adults and changed the names of minors not related to him and adult names he forgot. He said his ‘tenuous’ relationship with his parents meant he didn’t care about their opinions and made his book easier to write, noting, ‘I wrote without worrying about trying to preserve the relationship, and wasn’t sure if they’d read it. I felt unencumbered and free to be incredibly truthful.’” —March/April 2021 Writer’s Digest magazine

Write whatever you want to write. Later, if you publish your memoir, you can decide what to do about names. But before that, free yourself to write your truth. Write your story without worries about what anyone else might think.

Tell what happened. Write Your Story.

Just Write.

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