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Writing Books/Memoir - Name changes & Dialogue +


My question
I'm in the process of writing a memoir about all that happened during my recent stay in an inpatient facility. Won't say embellish as I have a tendency to write essays! But will say that I recorded many conversations to help me in my recount of the events and this book will be factual to the best of my memory. It's the truth that has the power!

Ok so my questions relate to the following - When referring to the other patients I met, for their privacy I have decided to change their names. But in regards to doctors I'm unsure whether to do the same, as I really want anything that takes the story away from its reality to be kept to a minimum. For the record any name changes do reflect their true nationality/background.
Also I feel odd keeping my name and the names of my family when everybody else's has been changed; it just doesn't seem to fit at all.

Q1. Where do the name changes stop, so I can rightfully keep it as a memoir?
Q2. Do I change the hospital and doctors names or do I ask for written permission to use the hospital and doctors names?
Q3. Would it still be a memoir if I've changed my family's names and that of myself? Part of me is thinking no, but it's worth asking just to be clear of my options here.
Q4. Do I write it as a recall, for example 'I remember the musky smell of his vest as I stood with it covering my chest'. Or like I'm actually there now 'I ask him to pass me his vest then promptly replace my hands with it. The musky smell is intoxicating, as I stand there with my chest now covered in his material'
Q5. Would whichever way I do write/tell the story affect the way I should deliver dialogue whether it be between just me and somebody or between me and someone where m telling them about a conversation of happening with another person?
Q6. It is better to write things as flash backs (recall) or, as if Im going back o the event and Im there? Or do I do a bit of both?
Q7. What is the best way to go from one scene to the next without confusing or boring the reader? Would doing a bit of both (see previous Q.) help in keeping the reader engaged and on track?
Q8. Finally, if doing the; me talking to the reader, then me getting a vivid memory flash back, and then me returning to the moment and writing that scene like its the present time (with perhaps any actual present memoirist thoughts in brackets?). How do I get the changes across in the book, so he reader knows what is happening and where they and myself are?

Many thanks for reading this. I hope you can help me as this is really preventing me from focusing and getting on with the writing.

- Luisa

Hi, Luisa!

I can answer a few of these questions, but some are legal questions that you wouldn't want to get an answer to from someone on the web. You'll need to check with a solicitor there in the UK (if the events happened there) about the following questions:


About Q4, there are two schools of thought in this. You can really write it either way. Both kinds of memoirs have sold well. Have you spent some time reading other memoirs already published to see which way you would prefer, or what makes sense to you?

Yes, for Q5, the tense you use (present tense is "The musky smell is intoxicating, and past tense is "I remember) has to be decided before you write dialogue.

In Q6, There's no "best way" to tell the story. It all comes down to what works for you. For this and for Q7 and 8--again, read lots and lots of other memoirs. See which ones you like. There are a variety of methods to engage the reader. Try out a few and see what fits your style.

Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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