1. Ziku
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    Ziku Member

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    Limits of an Autobiography?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ziku, Mar 10, 2009.

    As a bit of a side project, I am writing an autobiography about myself and my girlfriend and our times together, as we are, as is, the ultimate date movie couple.

    I'm curious on the opinions of some of the forum on if there's anything I CAN'T write in an autobiography.... As some stages are rather.... Obscene to say the least.

    What I'm asking is, what should (if anything) be left out of the autobiography of a fifteen year old and his first love? Should I cut anything at all, or perserve the truth for exactly what it is, no matter how ugly at times....

    Bit from the chapter; "Firsts and Forevers"
    December 20th

    ....And before I knew it I was talking to myself, no SCREAMING to myself, half in an almost insane laugh,
    "It doesn't matter.... No no no, it doesn't matter.... At that point I just wanted to scream to the world," I paused, releasing more of that seemingly psychotic laughter, "I wanted to scream "**** you Osborn you stupid ****ing bitch! Go to ****ing hell!"
    All I wanted to do was cram as many swear words around the name Osborn as I could....


    Do I omit something like that? I look like a psycho but it's a small part of my relationship, I screamed swears to the heavens about her ex (who is another woman by the way).

    I can do anything in my writing.... But how do I know if I should?
     
  2. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    It depends what you want to do with the work. If you want to try to publish it while a teenager, I can imagine some/most publishers would be cautious about taking something full of obscenities, sexual references or similar from someone younger. If you want to share it with a teacher or adult you know, you'll have to decide what they can deal with.

    Of course, the context is everything, and you need to decide whether these elements are vital to the story of you.

    If you *don't* want to imminently publish or share it, the rule book goes out the window. Writing your personal history can a great help both in understanding yourself, and getting some writing practice.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Other than what you can get a publisher to buy, the other major concern in an autobiography is liability. An autobiography, unless you grew up and lived on a deserted island, includes people other than yourself. If they perceive what you say about them as unfavorable, you may be brought to civil court in a defamation suit. In that case, the burden is on you to prove the truth of what you claimed. The person suing you does NOT have to prove that what you wrote is false - the burden of proof is on you. The determination of what is an unfavorable depiction is up to them, and the more they can convince a judge or jury that the depiction has harmed them, the greater the potential damages they can be awarded. Do not try to publish any kind of biography without consulting a litetary attorney.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto what cog had to say on this...

    PLUS... if your girlfriend is a minor [or was at the time], her parents [or others] may have you brought up on statutory rape charges, if there is reference to having sex with her, as well as suing you for defamation of character and libel, etc....

    you're in dangerous waters here, so my best advice is 'don't!'...

    also, if the thing you're writing is not your entire life story, then it's not an 'autobiography' but only a 'memoir'...
     
  5. Ziku
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    Ziku Member

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    Memoir? Erm, okay, thanks for the point out.

    Both of us are minors, I'm fifteen and she's seventeen, and I'll be sixteen before she's eighteen. Where I live at least, our relationship is and will always be completely legal.
     
  6. love2listen
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    love2listen Member

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    I'm writing one about my time at a nightclub and particularly my affair with the club owner. I had to change all the staff names and club name. Cause I have enough dirt on the guy to ruin his professional image, and if I didnt chage it and published it, he would murder me :)

    As far as I see it, its autobiography. It happened to you. Its your story, and you should be free to tell it as it happened. In mine I am writing extensively about a BDSM relationship, because thats what happened, and the book hinges on it.

    As for you, I can see positives - it shows people what a 15 year old can go through today.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Banzai, it's that way in the US too . . . "truth" is an absolute defense against defamation lawsuits.

    The problem is, while you might "win" the lawsuit, it could cost you many thousands of dollars (pounds, euros, etc) in attorney fees to achieve such "success". So, even truthful statements can carry detrimental aftereffects, hence the importance of getting legal counsel from an attorney specializing in the literary industry and issues.
     
  8. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    According to my attorney, that depends on the judgment. I recently won a lawsuit in which I had to pay my own attorney's fees. There was a reasonable doubt about a pre-existing medical condition that the plaintiff felt caused the damages. The plaintiff turned out to be wrong; I won and it was worth the legal cost to me as I came out ahead. In defending a libel lawsuit the real issue will be whether or not the lawsuit had reasonable merit in the first case. That determination can be complex. Was the story told truthfully? Did any damages result? If there were no monetary or emotional damages, then is the mere invasion of privacy sufficient grounds for the lawsuit?

    What is slander? Is Obama a "socialist" or not? Reasonable people can honestly interpret his actions either way. Same thing in libel lawsuits. Truth can be relative, and reasonable people can hold widely differing opinions. Hence, a lawsuit to settle the matter. The question for the courts will be HOW did such an intrusion harm the plaintiff. There are countless stories in law of a jury or judge finding the defendant "guilty" and awarding the sum of $1 as a settlement.

    My attorney explained to me that there are three possibilities in a civil case. If the plaintiff is successful in proving both the defendant's guilt and damages, especially if the intent was to wrong or harm the other person, then courts are quick to grant attorney's fees to the plaintiff, along with actual and punitive damages. On the other hand, in a nuisance lawsuit or malicious lawsuit, for example, one where the plaintiff is using the legal system for retaliation or vendetta, courts are quick to punish the plaintiff with award of attorney's fees to the other party. Unfortunately, the typical case is like the Obama analogy - the representations from both sides may contain elements of truth or understandable difference in point of view. In such cases, it is not uncommon for each party to carry the burden of their own legal costs, although they always have the right to request that the court rule differently. It's then a crap shoot decided by the judge or jury. My attorney warned me about that possibility when I pressed my case. The point is, legal fees are a risk to both plaintiff and defendant and are not automatically assigned in the US. That is the very reason for an author to consult with a literary attorney throughout the writing process when composing a story like the OP described.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    where do you live?... in most parts of the us, the two of you having sex would be statutory rape of YOU... and in some places, of her as well...

    even if you do change things, if the people you write about can reconize themselves, or if anyone who knows them can, you can be sued for libel if they don't like what you say about them...

    you're confusing the terms... an autobiography chronicles a person's whole life... a memoir focuses on one specific period in one's life... so, what you are writing and what is being discussed here, while they are 'autobiographical in nature, they are 'memoirs' not 'autobiographies'...
     

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