When writing a book that covers your personal story, it is important to consider that telling the truth is a serious part of both the writing and the editing process.
I think you should get your truth out – all out and then reflect.
As your writing cascades from your heart, pure and uncut, your many truths, as you see them will tumble onto the page.
And then you will freak.
How is telling the truth going to achieve anything?
Is this really the truth?
What if someone questions something and I get confused?
But you argue telling the truth is important.
Important to whom and what kind of truth does your reader need to know?
The truth of our lives is known only to us – as our reality. Your life is not an open book. Generally, you and I will only share what we want others to know. But also we tend to bend the truth in our heads over time.
I believe that there are three kinds of truth, yours, theirs and the naked truth.
In 1858 Agnes Repplier, an American Essayist wrote: “There are few nudities so objectionable as the naked truth.”
What is it about the truth that we find so hard to remember, handle, accept and let go of?
When I discovered that the ex was living a highly promiscuous double life, his truth was far from mine. He will (I believe) have woven tales to his friends about me and failed to tell them just what I found out (evidenced truth). I for my part have no desire to share the contents of what I found. Equally, I have my version of what happened.
In my opinion, he has painted himself as a poor hard done by gentleman who made one indiscretion. Having seen photos and emails (evidence) that show this to be untrue, I can understand why he wouldn’t want anyone to know who he is behind the veil. He wants to start his life again and desires to be seen in a good light. I get that, and I have no interest in him, beyond telling my story, my way and my truth.
The question I often get asked is about telling the truth and staying on the right side of the law, retaining your sanity and abiding by your code of ethics.
I would ask you to consider
- What purpose does it serve to dish the raw, unfiltered truth?
- How could you write your truth so that others get what you want to say by reading between the lines?
- Is your raw opinion relevant to the tale?
- How could you write well without dishing too much dirt?
Telling the truth, your way
There is more beauty in words that are well crafted than those that use their punctuation to drive a rusty nail home.
As I skimmed their secret life, not only was I mad as hell, it dawned on me that no wonder he didn’t have time for me, he was getting his rocks off elsewhere. On full display; their naked betrayal. I felt sick and alone. As I dug deeper, I found that throughout our five-year relationship, he had been getting off with other women, via Facebook and several other interesting ‘dating’ sites and I never knew existed. What an education I received.
Compared to writing exactly what I found. Would you benefit from knowing the gory details? I believe not. Although you might like to hear it all over a cuppa…
Stay out of he said, she said
If you get into the realms of tittle-tattle, it is game over. Stick to the identifiable facts or unprosecutable opinions.
I’d heard that he had told others that I stole his mum’s money. He has no evidence. He was the only person with access to her bank account and the one with her bank card and pin – fact. We had a pact that I would never handle her money – cannot be proven. His mother (with dementia – proven) accused the carers of theft, and we had to call the police – fact and evidence. Her purse was where she’d left it – fact, but no evidence as it wasn’t photographed.
Can you see how silly this all gets? Plus is it core to the story? Does it add anything? Is it guff or a truth worth adding? Now it might be that you add some stuff in to paint a portrait of their character, but take care about how you could do that more effectively.
In telling the truth, do I need to share everything?
We both played a game of getting on and laughed at how we were managing to get through this amicably. It was no fun, and he scared the shit out of me. On more than one occasion, I dreamt he was going to murder me. He was doing what he did best – playing mind games.
You do not need to know some of the things that I did to entertain myself to take the pressure off. Such as making him spag bol because he ate (in my opinion) like a pig. I was able to watch as he slurped his food all over his face and in his beard and could laugh at myself for marrying someone who ate like my granddad. You don’t need to know that bizarrely I changed my will two days after the discovery and didn’t tell him. Weirdly in the back of my mind, I feared the worse and wanted the last laugh. However, I could tell you these things to bring in humour – but why would I? Such a dilemma eh?
What about sharing peoples names and personal details?
Your job is to describe what you believe to be true without causing harm to others. You need to be careful about what you disclose. My advice is, where possible, to share any section that includes others for them to be able to approve. And get their approval in writing.
Of course, you cannot always get someone’s approval, and then I would do the email test. Would you want your name in an email going viral with stuff that you want to share, and the public may not need to know?
And check with a lawyer if you are not sure.
No matter how much you might want to ‘get at someone’ please do be careful. In Rude Awakenings, I open with a man who knows what he got found out for. I, however, said that I would not share the evidence that I found and I will not. What I do is allude to this and only share what I feel is necessary to my story. I could, of course, share, but as I said, what is the point, what he did is not illegal, just not acceptable within the bounds of our marriage vows. I know my truth of what living with him was like and what he got up to (retrospectively). You see, what is important is the part he played in helping me to have the life I have now (relevance).
If a person has been prosecuted and there is a public record of their misdemeanours, and you have permission to share – if indeed permission is needed (check with your lawyer) – then you can decide how it adds to your story.
Can telling the truth be classed as defamation?
Defamation is about injuring someone’s reputation, where you make a false statement designed to cause them harm or shake their ‘good’ standing. The defamed person has to prove that he or she is identifiable. You can change their name, where they live, what they look like etc. As long as you can prove your points and that you have evidence then the other person cannot claim you.
The good news is that your opinions are protected. What I mean by that is your opinion needs to be relevant to the story, and you may need evidence to support what you are saying.
So let’s say that you are writing about someone who groomed you, but they have not been prosecuted, you cannot identify them as you have no proof. You can, however, talk about your experience and how you felt.
My recommendation is that if you are unsure seek legal advice, use your common sense, intuition, test relevancy and then decide.
Write it all out and then edit/decide later
The best way is to write your story – all of it – and then when you edit decide what to do with it. The chances are that once you have written and reflected, you won’t feel so inflamed. Writing is wonderfully cathartic. Also remembering is difficult. You will have only your perceptions. Humans code their experiences in different ways, and we generalise, distort and delete things. Unless there is a video or a soundtrack it is hard to know what the real truth is.
You might write something like…
In my mind’s eye, I can still see the photo of him dressed in ladies underwear in our bedroom. I can’t be sure, but I swear that they were not my knickers. What I know is looking back is that I dismissed it because I trusted him.
A man in ladies underwear is not in my case relevant to my story of self-love, we already know that he was up to no good.
No one will know what you have deleted. Only keep in what is relevant.
Your job is to tell a good story and stick to the core message.
Don’t lie about yourself
As you write, give yourself the truth test. One of the wonderful things about storytelling is that occasionally the story expands and as we roll in fields of innocent fantasy. Yeah, that’s ok on a night out with your mates, and hopefully, they’ll be too drunk to remember what you said. But not in your book. Don’t tell lies, especially if someone else may be able to show that you are a liar. Don’t embellish if you can still identify the other person.
You do not have to disclose everything
Your story, your way that’s all you need to remember.
As I said write it, leave it and ponder. When you come back to your work ask
- Is this relevant?
- Could I write this another way to demonstrate a point?
- Who would care?
- Does it add anything to my story?
Let me leave you with this…
I know (only because someone told the person told who told me – tittle-tattle) that he has woven some interesting tales to show himself in a good light (my opinion). I heard that he gave me my house – the one I bought and paid for out of my funds. I can prove this is my house, where the funds came from, and there is evidence to show this to be true. Having hard facts is important in telling stories, my opinion is only my opinion, and stuff like this is not relevant to the core message of the book.
I have to open my book with the penis story, a) it is true b) it is the kick start of my awakening and c) I have evidence. But, I do not and will not ever share who this person is and the rest of the stuff that I found because it is not relevant, I am grateful for being set free.
And remember to include a disclaimer that this is your recollection of events, that you have retold them to the best of your knowledge, and that some identities have been changed or that some are a combination of many others.
Have fun writing your story.
PS: Sorry that there weren’t any sex stories, they didn’t seem relevant.