Names of characters, places, things in a memoir/fiction work

by Burr Beard
(Allentown, PA USA)

Question: I have changed the names to "protect the innocent". But my convention has been use just a first name, unless you are going to call that person by his last name. Then I use both to introduce.

Place names. I have to name the city, because I know it, and things did happen there. And I am naming the actual places people go. But I make a difference between local and national stature things that I name. ie bands, musical groups and artists. The more local, the more I change the name. The more national, I keep the real name. These are some my characters know and some they don' they are big inspirations to the local folks.

Should I bite the bullet and be completely real? It all starts with changing my name and those I really interacted with. They will know who they are, but I feel I have to change all our names.

Answer: I think the path you have been taking so far sounds fine -- changing the names of real people who you are using as characters, but keeping the authenticity of the milieu.

In fact, I might suggest that you keep local names (bands, artists) so long as they are not actual characters but simply referred to by the characters, so that your readers get a sense of the period and setting, what it was like to live in that world during that time, and what was on people's minds.

For instance, if someone wrote a memoir in which two people met at a Grateful Dead concert, using the actual band name would lend a sense of authenticity and tell the reader something about the characters.

On the other hand, using Jerry Garcia as a character -- giving him lines and having him contribute to the plot -- might be more problematic. In that case, it might make more sense to create a fictional band and a character that had some similarities to Garcia, but was clearly not him.

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Jul 23, 2015
by: Burr Beard

Thank you for the tips!

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