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  1. Axle Jack
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    Axle Jack New Member

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    Writing about real people

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Axle Jack, Jan 21, 2014.

    Hi folks. I am new to this forum so I apologise if this subject has been covered before.

    I plan to write the story of my involvement in CB and ham radio. The first book will be more or less the story of my growing up from about age 14 to mid 20s. This story will include many real people. I had thought of changing names of people and places, but one of the main events in this story is a world famous disaster which will tell everyone the time and place, so there is no point in trying to hide who is involved.

    What are the legal problems with including real people? If I keep everything truthful and reasonable I should be able to avoid defamation. But what about my thoughts and views on people. One of my main accompanying protagonists died six years ago, and I know he would have supported the book anyway. But there is one guy who I thought was an idiot, and another girl who I had a sexual fantasy inducing crush on. We were both 15 at the time. Is this sort of stuff acceptable in a slightly dramatized but obviously non-fiction story?

    Thanks for any help you can offer.
    Jack
     
  2. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    To save any slander issues i would change names, places are not so important, unless they are the sole person (which i guess never happens). If you are worried that the name change will effect real world events (which I strongly doubt the name would unless famous....which is a whole new legal ball game) just state at the beginning that names and or places have been changed to protect the identity.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    inserting a disclaimer won't necessarily save anyone from being sued, sv...

    jack...
    if you don't make it fiction and change everything that might identify any real people, the only way to be safe from being sued is having a release from all the real people you'll be writing about that they signed after they'd seen what you've written about them...

    you really need to be asking for advice on this from a literary attorney, not well-meaning folks on writing sites... and that includes me...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  4. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    True...but I ment when saying nothing slanderous or hurtful. Just as a nod that someone was there. I agree if that if you start badmouthing for shock little will save u
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's still not helpful to let new writers think they can be safe by just inserting a disclaimer...

    if you write about a private person, one who isn't in the public eye, without their permission, and they can be identified by the story details, such as locale/events/actions, they can still sue you for 'invasion of privacy'... and whether they have a chance of winning or not, it will still cost a bundle to defend yourself in court...

    in all things legal, it's always best to do all possible to make sure you'll be 'safe, not sorry'... and that includes consulting a literary attorney, not non-attorneys on a writing site...

    I can back this up with personal experience... in re a novel I wrote that I set in the beach cottage friends had lent me, the wife, who owned it, threatened a lawsuit and injunction if I ever published it, just because she didn't like what I wrote about the antagonist, whose behavior and situation might be said to resemble my ex-husband, who had major clout in the state and might take it out on her for allowing me to use the house... even though the characters I based on the couple were the nicest folks you could hope to meet, so I hadn't maligned them at all...
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  6. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Man that sucks. All in all make something up its safer :D. Im sticking to fantasy. I hear fairies don't have a good union hehe. But thinking bout it play safe is the best option. Ask yourself would it be worth it - prob. not.
     
  7. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Assuming you want to sell this, and not just have a memoir to pass on the the kids, if you don't have serious things going wrong, conflict and struggle to prevail, you may be writing a chronicle that reads like a report—informative but not entertaining to the reader, who comes to us for exciting and compelling entertainment.
     
  8. aClem
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    aClem Active Member

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    I'm glad I don't know anybody rich. Most of my friends don't even have a dime to call a public defender.
     

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