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Writing Books/Memoir - how to convey the story part 2



I'm in the process of writing a memoir about all that happened during my recent stay in an inpatient facility, and this book will be factual to the best of my memory. It's the truth that has the power!

Q1. It is better to write things as flash backs (recall/recount?) or, as if Iím going back to the event and Iím there? Or do I do a bit of both?

Q2. Finally, if doing the; me talking to the reader, then me getting a vivid memory Ďflash backí, and then me returning to the moment and writing that scene like itís the present time (with perhaps any actual present memoirist thoughts in brackets?). How do I get the changes across in the book, so the reader knows what is happening and where they and myself are?

Q3. What is the best way to go from one scene to the next when following two very different happenings in the story at the same time, without confusing or boring the reader? Would doing a bit of both (see Q1.) help in keeping the reader engaged and on track?

Many thanks,


Hello Luisa:

First, I would suggest that you read a few memoirs to see how it's done.

Second, how you address the reader depends on the point of view you are going to use. Will you be writing in first person? Second? Third? Even if it is a memoir, you are still telling a story. Just write it as though you are writing a letter to your best friend. Tell what happened, don't worry about whether it's a flashback or what it is, don't put anything in brackets, just tell what happened, in the most vivid way you can.

I did not answer your first set of questions because, for the most part, they involved legal matters, and I am not a lawyer. However, I have seen many instances where secondary characters such as doctors, nurses, etc., were described as "Dr. G," or "Nurse M," rather than give their real names. If you are going to be saying nasty things about them, it would be better to use initials - not necessarily the right ones - and refer to the hospital as "the hospital," etc.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high scores over 1900 questions.

And thank you for writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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