1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Jul 7, 2016
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    Forgotten names in creative nonfiction

    Discussion in 'Non-Fiction' started by deadrats, Sep 10, 2018.

    Some places like The New York Times column Modern Love don't want you to change names of the people in your essay. No pseudonyms. Sometimes authors will use creative ways around this like a pet name or by referring to someone by their occupation. Other times they keep and use just the first names. I'm not opposed to this practice or policy. But that's also not really the issue. I wrote a personal essay over the weekend. It was actually a rewrite of something I tried to do years ago, but I think I did much better this time around. It's about something I went through quite some time ago but has relevance today. Most of the people mentioned I never even knew their last names and have forgotten their first names. I tried to get around this by saying "the French girl" or "the driver," but the problem is that these people are pretty substantial in the essay and are mentioned throughout. And I have quite a few of these nameless real-life characters so it seems to be disrupting the essay in a way that just naming them wouldn't. I would be fine with using first names, but I've forgotten them. Even when I tried to write this essay years ago, the names had already escaped my memory.

    This essay isn't for Modern Love, but I believe the publication I want to submit it to has a similar practice. And I really don't want to use fake names anyway. So, what sort of options do I have? I've sold a few pieces of creative nonfiction in the past and always kept first names for the most part (used a nickname before, but it was a real one, and I have referred to people by occupation). I just can't for the life of me seem to remember anyone's name for this piece I'm working on. Okay, I know one name. But naming one person and not the others also feels off. I think I need to get creative here, but I'm a little stumped on the best way to approach this issue for this essay. How would you handle this? If you have experience in the matter, how have you handled such things in the past? Looking forward to your replies. Thanks.
  2. Youssef Salameh

    Youssef Salameh Senior Member

    Oct 11, 2012
    Likes Received:
    To me, honesty is the best way to stand against such obstacles. If you are not allowed to write fake names then write the incidents that you remember accompanied by the names you remember in it. You can portrait the people with names that you know in a way that appeals to the reader focusing on the message you want to tell or convey and the events, otherwise, take permission from the people who ran through it, cope with them, then i believe it'll be solved .:)
    Irina Samarskaya likes this.

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