Is It Nonfiction or Fiction or Memoir or … ?

Q. I want to write a story about my life (very unusual circumstances), but I can’t completely recall all the details with regard to signifigant events: What day was my son taken away from me?  What day did my daughter’s father tell me he was arrested by the organized crime unit for being a bookie?
        Also, I’m sure that no one wants me to use their names or the names of businesses that are going to be discussed.  What genre am I going to classify this as?
       – Lori

A. If you’re making anything up, it ceases to be nonfiction.  If you make up conversations to create scenes, or you make up names/characters to help the story go along, you’re definitely entering the realm of fiction and not nonfiction/memoir. 
       You can certainly use the names of real people and businesses, but everything must be true and you have to be able to prove it if necessary.  When you start to write negative things about people and places, it gets complicated.
       If you’re worried about using real names and real timelines, my advice is: Don’t.  Draw upon events of your life and create a fictional story.
       “But wait,” you say.  “A lot of it is based on real things that happened!”  Yes, I know.  So are many, many other novels.  Yours is no different.  Draw upon your life experiences to write a great story.  And when you’re touching on sensitive things, such as mobsters, you will want to make sure that your characters in the book are not too close to real-life figures.  Better safe than sorry.

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