How to embellish your life story without getting caught.

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
March 6 2008 1:29 PM

The Fake Memoirist's Survival Guide

How to embellish your life story without getting caught.

Click here to learn why memoir fabulists will always get caught, here to learn about the feud over a former child-soldier's autobiography, here to hear about the next faked-memoir scandal before anybody else does, and here to get a sneak peek at Volume 2 of Margaret B. Jones' memoirs.

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When cornered, confess. There's nothing sadder than a fabricator railing against indisputable evidence. (Exhibit A: Norma Khouri.) Acknowledge your sins. Feel free, however, to insist that you're telling the "emotional truth." The details don't matter, as long as you're painting an accurate picture of how you felt—real truth is for stenographers. When needed, scapegoats can include childhood trauma, a breakup, drugs, or gender confusion. Worst-case scenario: long, tearful, Oprah-assisted soul-searching. Best-case scenario: another book deal.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.