If you are writing memoirs it is very likely that your story will contain historical details. While you may have a strong memory for what happened, it’s good practice to always check details (especially dates, places and peoples names) and researching further details can enhance your writing.
One of the biggest difficulties you will face when researching historical details is ascertaining what is the truth. It’s possible that you will find multiple authorities, all highly credible, each with a different opinion. If you’re lucky enough, you might have access to someone who was there at the time and can provide you with reliable information, but what if that simply isn’t possible?
Ever Changing Truth
The one fact that you can be sure of, is that books and the information that they contain, can go out-of-date once they are published. New information can be uncovered which changes how the past is now viewed. Consider the impact of the discover of old documents and advances in medicine and science.
“History itself does not change, but the interpretation of history changes constantly.” Ann Hoffmann, Research for Writiers.
What’s the Truth?
Ask a group of people who were at the same event the same question and it’s very likely that they will all give you very different answers, some possibly conflicting. Who was right? That’s a difficult question to answer; they probably all believe they are right. It’s important to remember, as a writer, that a truth and a fact can be differ for different people.
Use of Statistics
Statistics should be treated carefully by the researcher. Always understand the factors behind the statistics, as it may be that different sources had varying factors which means that you cannot accurately compare their figures.
Find an Expert
Where possible, try to track down a number of experts in the field you are researching. Getting in contact with relevant associations and groups can be helpful and they may be able to connect you with suitable people. Generally the more experts you can speak with, the more confident you will eventually feel about the facts you are relying upon in your writing. Although they may different, you will at least have developed some instinct for what is your most reliable source of information.
Getting your facts right is very important for a memoir writer. A small detail that is wrong can tarnish an author’s credibility in the eyes of the reader, so always check your facts. Finding out more information, however seemingly insignificant, can enhance and embellish your writing, so don’t limit your memoir writing to only your memories.