Deb Rachel Writes About Her Friends and Family

MWF Seeking BFF, by Rachel BertscheWhen you write memoirs, sharing your books with family and friends takes on a whole other level of OMG. It’s not just that you want the people you love to love your work. It’s that your work is about them. They aren’t just your cheerleaders, they’re your characters.

While my book is primarily about me, it’s also about my husband, and my mom, and my two best friends, Callie and Sara.

Granted MWF Seeking BFF is mostly about how much I love these people, but still, they are exposed. The words that come out of their mouths, simple random comments, turn up in dialogue.

My mother and my husband and my brother read my book chapter by chapter as I was writing it. Overall, they gave me free reign to say about them what I wanted and what I believed to be true. There were perhaps a couple of times where my husband took issue with language I used, or questioned my version of the story (writing a memoir involves writing your truth–and if you’re writing about, say, a fight with your husband, your reality of what went down might be very different from his), but he never asked me to remove or change anything. If he had asked me to remove something,  I would have. If he’d asked me to change it, I’d have probably said no. I’m willing to not say something at all, but I’m not willing to fudge my recollection of what happened.

Sara and Callie didn’t read my little ode to them until it was in its ARC form. (Though Sara did get a sneak peek of one part when my lawyer said I had to get her permission to refer to her “fleeting moment of idiocy” in the first chapter. Luckily, she agreed not to sue me.) I thought they would love reading an entire book about how hard it is to have friends as good as them.

And mostly, they did. But when I emailed them this week to get their input on what it’s like to read a book about yourself, here’s what Sara said: “It was exciting, but also weird.  Even though obviously it is all about how much you love me (us) and accurate, it’s weird to see yourself as a character, and think about how other people are going to perceive your character.  You focus on the things you don’t like about yourself, even if they are accurate.”

I was struck by this answer, because Sara is my oldest friend in the world and one of the most important people in my life. I adore her. So while I think and hope my portrayal of her is honest and accurate, I don’t think there’s anything not to love. Such is the bias of a true BFF.

Another fascinating aspect of sharing your memoir with its characters is learning which parts trouble them. My husband was perfectly fine with some very personal revelations about our marriage, but was not happy when I referenced him watching SportsCenter, a show he apparently doesn’t like. “I watch ESPN, not SportsCenter,” he told me when he read the final copy.

“Uh, sorry?” I said.

“I just think you’d know that…”

If you write memoirs, you’re not going to make everyone happy all the time. If you do, you’re probably not doing your job as a writer. Honesty isn’t always pretty, after all. But it’s part of the gig.

Would you ever write about the people in your life? Would they be mad? Would you be willing to show them?

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5 thoughts on “Deb Rachel Writes About Her Friends and Family

  1. Rachel, I’ve really been looking forward to your post this week–especially since I had the honor of reading MWF Seeking BFF first! As I read it (and loved it, as you know!) I would find myself thinking, wondering what it’s like to write about people who KNOW they’re the people in the book and how hard that must be–unless you make the decision, which you have to of course in a memoir, that that is understood.

    So often in fiction, we write about people we know and love but don’t ever come out and say, “Hey, Loni–you know that character in my novel named Annie? Yeah, that’s totally YOU!”–so we fiction writers have it easy that way.

    As I may have said in my review, the only person who ever is poked fun at in MWF Seeking BFF is YOU, dear. And done so with such self-effacing charm that makes you even more inviting as a narrator. So you be sure and tell your husband and your dear friends that I recall them with high esteem when I think back on their “characters” in the book! (But I do LOVE what your hubby said about ESPN vs. SportsCenter!)

  2. It really is a whole ‘nother ball of wax when you’re writing a memoir, huh? No way can you fudge about where your inspiration for certain characters came from. *grin*

    I agree with Erika — with MWF SEEKING BFF, you managed to be highly entertaining without being at all mean-spirited. That’s what I loved so much about the book. 🙂

  3. I can’t imagine writing about real people for an extended number of pages (though I had no problem giving real people as cameos in my novel, haha), but I can see how it would be weird to view yourself through the lens of someone else’s experience. If nothing else, it’s weird to be reminded that we may be the stars of our own movies, but we just play supporting roles in almost everyone else’s.

  4. That is hysterical that he pointed out that it was ESPN not sports center!

    I suppose I would share it. You have definitely got me thinking on this one. I eventually hope to write a memoir about my brother. I’m certain some of the characters won’t like what I have to say.

  5. I do trust all of the ideas you’ve introduced in your post. They’re really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too brief for beginners. May you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

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