Excellent editoral in USA Today Monday titled How to fix the memoir genre. In it the author lays out four standards to fix the memior genre.
An excerpt from the editoral:
Standard OneMemoirs should be divided into at least two sub-genres, reflecting the different values that authors bring to the writing.
Memoirs that adhere to traditional standards of factuality should now be labeled as Non-fiction Memoir. In these books, no one brags he was in jail for three months if it was only three hours. No one claims to own a dog when she doesn't. The limitations of memory require the writer to recollect and re-collect the tiles of experience and arrange them into a meaningful mosaic. But nothing in the non-fiction memoir has been fabricated.
We need a different label for writers who choose other narrative methods. Perhaps the writer has invented dialogue, or combined two or three characters into one, or changed the location of an important meeting. For such work, I borrow a category from the movies: Based on a True Story.
Standard Two Memoirs should be labeled according to the writing strategies used to create the narrative. How would a publisher decide how to market a particular memoir? Is it a Non-fiction Memoir or is it Based on a True Story? Arriving at a responsible answer would be an art, not a science, and each publishing house might draw the line in a different place, but posing these questions to the author would help:
Are there any fictional characters or settings or scenes in your memoir? Are there any composite characters? Which ones? Have you conflated events or expanded time or space? Did you add any significant element to the story that you -- or someone else -- know to be untrue? If we revealed your method to the readers after the fact, might they feel deceived or disappointed.
I think having some guidelines would not only help create trust with the reader but help weed out the writers who want to fiction to pass as fact.