“Making Nice” Will Trip You Up

We all have family stories that we have heard over and over again. When they are told in family gatherings, no one expects any contradiction. After all, the stories are the “truth” about someone in the family.

How do you write about these stories? There’s no problem when you are in agreement with the story line and the interpretation, but what do you do when you are not? especially what do you do when you are isolated in the way you interpret the story?

You can always tell the story in the “official” version, but you will be at odds to tell the story well. When you distort your insights in order not to contradict other people’s take on your story, your readers will sense that something is wrong. What’s more they may tend to dismiss what you write. They will sense that your interpretation is not the product of insight but an instance of family white-washing.

For instance, if you are driven (by your loyalty to a family theme) to depict a character–let’s say your Aunt Phyllis–as always fighting for good and justice, a true heroine, but in your heart you experience her as overbearing and rigid, your readers will intuit this conflict. Distorting your point of view to support a version you do not hold will lead to inexplicable warps in your story. Even if they can’t put their finger on it, your readers will pick up that there is something wrong in the writing. At best, they will quickly keep what you say at a distance. At worst, they will distrust your writing both here and elsewhere (and possibly everywhere).

Besides, not telling the truth as you see it has a way of digging you into a hole. Like a “white” lie, it gets bigger and bigger until you can hardly handle it.

So tell your version of the truth. You and your readers will be glad you did.

Good luck in writing your memoir.

Let this be the year you write and complete your memoir.

  1. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch, and
  2. You don’t have to do it alone. There are many supports and resources available to you.

About Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux began helping people to turn their memories into memoirs in 1988. Denis was named Lifewriting Professional of the Year by the Association of Personal Historians in 1996. Today, Denis is a writer, educator, teacher, autobiography co-author, memoir-writing coach, editor and publisher. He directs The Memoir Network, an international group of memoir professionals who use his method and materials to help people write lifestories. Denis also offers writing tele-classes and leads memoir writing tele-groups.
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