In Prince Harry’s book Spare, there are some glaring errors that I blame his ghostwriter for not fixing. The ghostwriter’s job is not just to relay the story given to them by making it readable and enjoyable, but also to fact-check the subject’s story.
For instance, Prince Harry claims his wife Meghan booked a first-class ticket from Mexico to England for her father on New Zealand Air. The problem is, New Zealand Air doesn’t offer first-class service, and it doesn’t operate flights between Mexico and the UK.
And that’s an easy fix. Maybe it was on another airline, or a different class of service that New Zealand Air offers. Maybe the flight originated on one carrier and switched to another carrier mid-trip. In the delight to be succinct unfortunately credibility was lost.
Take an excerpt from the book: “We told him, leave Mexico right now: A whole new level of harassment is about to rain down on you, so come to Britain. Now. Air New Zealand, first class, booked and paid for by Meg.”
Great writing there. Unfortunately, because the the facts don’t align with reality, it comes off as an untruth rather than a misremembering.
That’s not a Harry issue, by the way, that’s a ghostwriter issue. Our memories are fallible, as we misremember things all the time. The key to good writing is not only to fact-check your subject’s story, but your own. Always double check to ensure your subject’s memory and your own memory pans out with reality.
When I wrote my friend Christi’s memoir, I spent about half of my time doing research. I wanted everything I wrote to be accurate and authentic down to the details of Playboy magazine cover from the 1970s to the official uniforms of the Knights of Columbus. I learned so much about the history of Cary, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida where her grandparents lived after emigrating from Cuba. I learned that Cuba was once a part of the United States. It was fascinating research and after completing the book, I was grateful I’d taken the time to dig deeper into the story she recounted to me so the reader would enjoy a rich experience.
The five senses are extremely important in storytelling and it’s difficult to relay the correct sensory exposition if you haven’t researched the heck out of what you’re talking about, not to mention prevented your subject or yourself from the embarrassment of publishing inaccurate facts that could be construed as lying.
Lesson? Do you your due diligence and research, research, research.