Changing names in memoirs and writing the synopsis

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Flexi

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After about a hundred rewrites my memoir is almost ready to go out to the big wide world.
I have two questions for people familiar with memoirs and publishing:
1) Many people change names of individuals in memoirs for privacy etc... If I am going to do this should I change names before I send my manuscript to an agent or keep them as real names and ask the agent for their advice on changing names if I ever get signed. Some people/ characters may also be recognisable in the local community and I'm not sure whether to leave these as their real names and ask the agent their opinion later?
2) I've had mixed advice about the synopsis and query letter for memoirs. Should they follow standard rules and be in present tense and third person or the same as the manuscript (which is 1st person, past tense)?

hope these questions make sense

thanks for any advice you can provide
 

Gatita

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If you're going to change a few names in your final book, I'd change them in your manuscript as well, with a note saying some names have been changed and, most important (because this has to do with your credibility), why.

As far as synopses, they should always be present tense. Not sure about first versus third person, but I guess I'd err on the side of third.
 

Devil Ledbetter

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Some people/ characters may also be recognisable in the local community and I'm not sure whether to leave these as their real names and ask the agent their opinion later?
I don't know, but Nic Sheff changed the names in his memoir Tweak, yet people still figured out who was who and he regretted it. I noticed in his next memoir, We All Fall Down, he used different locations as well to mask the identity of certain people.
 

khobar

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It's possible that the urge or uncertainty regarding the names is a symptom of you having some doubt about what you're saying. If you have not already done so, perhaps have someone familiar with the story read it and tell you whether you're being fair.

In my case I asked some boys I went to school with 30 some years ago if my portrayal of certain others was accurate. I got back some interesting comments. I was far too hard on the reverend, for example. So I went back and took a look and decided that, yes, I should make some changes. I also modified my portrayal of another fellow only because I realized I didn't need to be telling others what to think about him - I needed to let the story give others the information they'd need to make up their own minds.

So think about why you're considering changing names. It might be just what you need to do, or it might reveal something you hadn't considered. Good luck!
 

LindsayM

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Great questions!

(1) I'd leave the names as they are for now, and then work with the agent to determine the best next steps for your story. Knowing the ins-and-outs of legal issues is part of his/her job. Since she will already know your story, she should be able to advise you on if/how to edit names/obviously recognizable characters. (It's hard to give more specific advice without having read your manuscript.)

(2) Follow the standard rules for FICTION proposals. Although memoirs are, of course, nonfiction, the proposal/review/selling process is much closer to that of fiction than non.