How to Write Real People in Memoir

How do you write about someone you know? This course unpicks the thorny questions around truth, memory, and narrative.

To help you better understand the role that real people play as characters in true stories, you will:

  • Think of yourself as the main character in your story
  • Create distinct voices in your narrative
  • Explore the role of setting as a character in memoir
  • Discover the difference between memory, truth, and perspective
  • Learn to distance yourself from your writing in order to craft your narrative


You’ll also delve into the world of ethics when writing real people, inclduing issues around giving offence and when the detail you provide is enough.

More information

Katy Massey

Katy was a journalist for 15 years before studying for an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Newcastle University.

Her memoir, Are we home yet? (Jacaranda Books) was published in 2020 and praised by Bernardine Evaristo as ‘a gem’. It was shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize and the Portico Prize. In addition, her fiction and nonfiction has been widely anthologised, including Common People edited by Kit de Waal from Unbound, The Place for Me, published by Scholastic, and upcoming speculative collection Glimpse, from Peepal Tree Press.

She has recently delivered her first novel, an unusual take on the crime genre, to her agent. It features Maureen, a hard-drinking but tender-hearted brothel-keeper in 1970s Leeds. She becomes unexpectedly drawn into the murder of a friend’s son, events which take place against the disturbing back drop of the Yorkshire Ripper’s murder spree.