The other week I went to Berlin to visit a ghostwriting client. I had not been to Berlin since I was a teenager and quite honestly I didn’t have a great impression of the city back then. (But that had probably more to do with being a teenager.) This time, I loved Berlin. Did you know, they have an English-language bookshop that is open until midnight?!
I met with my Berlin-based client over a few days to get down the details of their life. The interviews for a ghostwriting project often feel a bit like a cross between being a journalist and a therapist. Certainly, for memoirs, it’s a delicate affair.
To be honest, it can be kind of awkward in the beginning. You’re entering this person’s life to take down their most intimate stories. Anybody would be intimidated. Sometimes, writing a book wasn’t even the author’s own idea. Then they’re even less confident about telling their story.
Here’s a truth about the whole ghostwriting business:
Most people are not very good at telling their own story.
And why would they be? Think about what you would say when asked about your life. It would be mostly anecdotes or special moments – but these do not a story make. So, the ghostwriter reads between the lines, not to make things up, but to see what kind of protagonist the storyteller is. What kind of words they use to describe themselves, the way they portray themselves. For any story (fictional or not), your protagonist is your anchor. Or, as Henry James famously said about writing a novel, you “make an ado” about someone.
It is such an intimate activity, and the ghostwriter and the client tend to build quite a strong bond – if things go well, that is. It is a beautiful and strange relationship. You’re still strangers, but you are witness to their most precious or devastating events. And, hopefully, the ghostwriter can weave a meaningful story from these moments.
Until next time.
Your friendly resident ghost,
P.S. I don’t hide in the shadows, check me out on insta @caravioola and twitter @caraviolabland.
P.P.S. Don’t hesitate to drop me an email (email@example.com) if you have any questions about ghostwriting!