Changing “I” to “she” in Memoir

This is advice from Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life.

When writing a draft of your memoir, try using third person instead of first.  Strauss says what makes writing about ourselves hard is doing so impartially. It’s easy to award a full pardon to our “I” sins,  or at least unfair points. Looking at yourself as you would a character helps remove that extra pinch of sugar. When you think you’ve gotten it right, fair and unsentimental, change the draft  back to first person.

4 responses »

  1. I’m just now reading your memoir, since I just got back in the country 2 days ago. It’s the kind of book I can’t wait to get back to. I’m dying to know what happens to her next and how she will react, even though I obviously know the outcome. It’s one of those books where I find so many lines and phrases that I just love. Did you write it first in third person?

    • This poor book has been written in so many different ways, it’s a wonder it makes sense. It started as fiction, with made up names for everybody (I was Wingate). I got an agent who said, try it in third person, which I did. I got a publisher who said they didn’t like it, but they liked the part about the young girl growing up at the hotel. Why didn’t I write a book about that? I spent a year doing that and they still didn’t like it. It finally back into memoir when enough of the people who’d get mad at me died and I began working on the thesis for my M.F.A.

  2. Good point. As long as I can get back to that “I”. Thank you.


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