I’ve talked to a lot of would-be writers lately who aren’t sure if they want to write their life story as a memoir or as a novel based upon a true story. They ask if, as a ghostwriter, I can do both, and of course the answer is yes, but the question remains: which style best fits your book idea? A novel based upon a true story is sure to be suspenseful and exciting, since we can play with the material quite a lot to give you the effect you’re looking for–be it a mystery, romance, action novel, or pure literature. However, the advantage of writing a memoir is that, being true, if it’s a remarkable story, it will hit people harder than if it were fiction. There are a lot of people out there who have really fascinating life stories that truly justify being written as straight memoir.
The trick to keeping memoir just as exciting as a novel is being able to find the high and low points, see where the characters develop, emphasize the setting in terms of both time and place, and show the central conflicts in the story. This is actually one of the reasons why hiring a ghostwriter can be really helpful– usually people know too much about their own lives to be able to analyze it for a book. Things seem so complicated!
But when I hear all the details, it’s my job to pick out the major and minor conflicts in the story that I hear. It’s my job to note the identifiers, such as music, the political climate, and other memes that place the story in a unique time and place. So yes, a memoir can be as exciting as a novel. The trick is to identify the stuff that’s important to the book and leave out what isn’t important.
The autobiography genre tends to cover someone’s life story from beginning to end, but in a memoir, we have the freedom to craft the story so that we focus on just the aspects of your life that contribute to a great book. And no, that’s not lying. It’s just great story crafting!