Writing a memoir is a soul-searching endeavor that can bring up a lot of difficult feelings for the author and for the people who may appear in the memoir. Including uncomfortable situations can make your memoir engaging and relatable to your readers, but it may also result in hurt feelings. So, here are 3 strategies to help you write your memoir without damaging your relationships.

Discuss Your Memoir Beforehand

If you think you may need to include an uncomfortable memory involving a family member in your memoir, talk to them while it’s still in the drafting stage, or even earlier. Give them time to warm up to the idea of you writing a memoir with a few short conversations over time. 

Eventually, you should have a direct conversation that addresses exactly what you want to put in your memoir. Plan ahead. Let them know ahead of time that you have something important you want to discuss. Choose a time and place where you are both able to focus and speak freely. 

As you listen with compassion to their concerns, your ideas about your memoir and what you want to include may change. You may discover that you’ve forgotten specific details that change the story and no longer make it relevant. Or, you might decide to edit the details so that your loved one can’t be identified.

By discussing your memoir with your loved one before it’s printed and published, you are allowing them enough time and space to process the idea before seeing something in print, which can feel very final and threatening. And, you are extending a courtesy that speaks to your integrity as a person and as an author. 

Write With Compassion And Stay Focused

Writing about hurtful people and situations can be cathartic. That’s why so many people keep journals. It helps us process difficult emotions and gives us the freedom to say what we feel without fear of judgment. But, a memoir is not a journal.

The best memoirs are honest and compassionate. People–even the people who hurt us–are complex and dynamic. A one-sided memoir reads as myopic and lacks perspective. But, when each of the people you feature in your memoir is nuanced, your memoir is richer, more engaging and well-developed.

In addition to being compassionate, everything in your memoir needs to be relevant and move the book forward. It’s easy to start writing about a painful experience and include details that are irrelevant to the book or the story itself. Additionally, only including relevant details will help you avoid infringing on someone else’s right to privacy. Stay focused. If the story, detail, or adjective isn’t necessary, get rid of it.

Refrain From Including Anything Unflattering

Lastly, the best way to write a memoir without damaging any of your relationships is to completely avoid including anything unflattering. This can go a long way in helping protect yourself against lawsuits, including libel, as well as your personal relationships. Though it is can be particularly challenging when you have negative feelings toward someone, life is too short to jeopardize family relationships for a book. A writing coach can help with this. Trust their expertise to help you decide what should stay, what should go and what can be reworked.


Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, contemporary hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write and publish books to share their message and make an impact on the world. Schedule your complimentary Get Acquainted Call today.