techniques for ghostwriters

4 Memory Techniques for Ghostwriters

As a ghostwriter, I am regularly asked to write or write someone’s biography. My clients do this for a variety of reasons such as:

– telling loved ones something that has always remained a secret,

– explaining behavior and / or success,

– transferring experiences and wisdoms of life

– sharing memories.

– explain specific events.

Whatever the reason, it is always fun and exciting to be able to do this work. Ghostwriting solution is not only a matter of writing the right lyrics, because strangely enough, I rather experience than as an afterthought. It is more about helping to recall memories and connecting them to the correct interpretation. I make use of four ‘techniques’ to help recall memories.

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Visit the ‘Crime Scene’

During the interviews with my clients I always go through their geographic life story with them. Where were they born? Which schools did they attend? Where have they lived? In which neighborhood? Which cities and countries have they visited? Where have they met people who are or were of significance to them? Which associations did they belong to? What were favorite stores?

If the memories are vague, I always propose to walk / drive past it together and then the memories often surface very quickly. I recently visited the house in which she grew up with a client. It was a matter of ringing the bell and explaining what we were doing and the door opened wide and we were allowed to look at everything.


Music is a very powerful reminder. That is why I sometimes play music from the phase of life to be described and then see which feelings and memories emerge. Of course I also ask what kind of music they like. Not long ago I met a Beatles fan. When I recorded songs from their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts  Club Band from 1967 (Spotify), all kinds of memories of his military service surfaced! An unpleasant experience for him of which he did not even have photos. Because he could still remember a few names of some of his peers, he came into possession of photos with memories attached. (Facebook!)

Images and Objects

A fixed routine is visiting my clients in their own environment. I like to dive into old photo albums with them and, if there are any, we watch old 8mm films and/or video material. Houses are often full of all kinds of things to which memories are attached, such as paintings, Knick knacks, trophies, framed certificates. Bookcases also reveal where someone’s interests lie and of course, you ask where they come from. Even a T-shirt provides information, as I only just experienced. “Why did you buy a T-shirt with Albert Einstein on it?”

There are memories attached to all of these things, and for that reason alone is worth paying attention to. Then you will automatically ask questions such as: Which event or memory does it represent? Why did you keep it? What was happening in the background? What memories does this evoke?

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It is also my job as a ghostwriter to check if certain memories from my clients are factual or colored through personal, emotional interpretations. That’s why I always ask them for permission to contact someone who was part of their life to ask for their memories of a particular situation. By the way, I learned not to argue when the memories of ‘outsiders’ conflict with those of my client. After all, I am a ghostwriter and not a biographer!