I was holding off on doing this, or possibly never doing it, but now I am thinking of writing a memoir about prison. My question is this: How would you treat real names? And if the author used aliases, or didn't even know the real names of many inmates--as they are wont to use nicknames--how would a fact-checker for the publisher even be able to know if the events took place? I understand they can find out the basics--what the author's crime was and how long they were incarcerated and where (though I find it bizzare James Frey was not more thoroughly checked), but everything else seems like it could be made out of thin air, and that there's no way to find out the truth.

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    Do you have to use real names? Does the story work the same with made-up names?
    – FraEnrico
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 8:07

1 Answer 1


Honestly? Publishers don't fact check. They don't have the time. They want to make money on your book. If it comes to light later that your story is completely fictional...well, then it will come down on the head of the author for simply being a liar.

If there is a personal fact checker hired to scope out your story, then really there is no way for them to know if the names you used were legitimate or not.

Writing a memoir really comes down to you. And that's what's so cool about it in a way, you know. It's somebody's own personal memory. Their retelling of an event. So want to write about prison? Go for it.

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