Truth or Fiction
This is one of two big questions I get asked all the time. Memory is a tricky monster. You are not who you were when the incidents happened, are you? Thus, your memory of events is either shaped by your ability to take yourself back to the “then” and remember exactly how you felt and what occurred, being aware that your memory is shaped from the perspective of intervening years and who you are now as compared with who you were then.
In any case, it’s likely you won’t remember all the details or specific conversations that went on at the time. So—and here goes—you’ll have to make details up. Be assured that the exact details of the matter are lost in the mists of time.
Does that make you a liar? No, it makes you a good storyteller who is sticking to the intrinsic truth of the events, how they made an imprint on your life, and what you did about them. 100% accuracy is impossible, so forge on with light hearts! One caveat, however: if you are taking sizable flights of fancy and playing loose with veracity, then put a disclaimer in the front of your memoir; it's only fair to your readers.
The Bully in Seventh Grade
The second question on people’s minds is how much to tell about unpleasant experiences or people. My nearest guess is that it depends on the circumstances and the degree to which you’re willing to inflict distress on someone or let out information that impacts other lives negatively.
The tricky part here is if the incident or incidents have a HUGE impact on your life or plans, then somehow you'll want to have something that acts as a pivoting point. Try changing names and better yet, change the character of the what happened. If your then-best-friend lied about you and got you into trouble, think of another sort of betrayal that caused you pain. Another person told you your boyfriend was seeing someone else when he really wasn't.
First of all, you are aware that the true story probably isn’t libel , but for truth, you’d better be prepared to prove it. Given that, however, are you still willing to go through accusations or rumors, or perhaps a lawsuit even though you might win? Expensive that! You answer that this memoir is only for family, so no harm can come of it. Don’t bet on it.
The best answer is if it makes you cringe upon rereading your piece, leave it out. If it makes you sleepless over the idea that the blackened person might read it or be told about it, get out of bed and delete it.