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Hello ... I am curious about how to handle a situation in a book.  This book is about addiction and recovery and shares personal stories of the author.  We'd like to change the names (only listed as first names) of those that aren't key players (the names of the author and his family would be left as their own names).  I am not sure how to maneuver this.  Would it be best to note it in the preface?  I don't want readers to become upset that they didn't know the names of some of the people have been changed and then think the rest of the book isn't true...

 

Hope this makes sense. 

 

Any thoughts?

 

Thanks!!

 

Margi

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Yes, I would put it right at the start of the book to clarify that for your readers, Margi. Do you have permission from family members apart from the author to use their real names in your book? You'll need that and it would be best to have it in writing to safeguard him from any future issues.
Thanks for responding, Kay Elizabeth!!!! We have verbal permission ... the only family member with a name is a brother ... "mom" and "dad" are used a couple of places ... dad's deceased though.

I'm in a delimma with the person I'm editing this with ... I'm thinking about taking out the names of the others in the book ... which are mostly only ex-girlfriend's and replacing the name with "my girlfriend" or whatever fits there ... the person I'm editing with says it will make the book "impersonal" ... my thought is that it might not matter and it might allow the reader to focus strictly on the relationship with the author and his addiction ... although if I took out the names and read it through I might change my mind and want first names back in.

The author would prefer to not have names if it wouldn't make the book less appealing to the reader.

When one writes an autobiography and uses real names are there any legal issues or permission that needs to be obtained?

This book isn't being written to be coined as an autobiography, although all of the experiences in the book are real life experiences of the author during addiction and into his recovery.

OK .... sorry this is so long ... I'm trying to sort this out and I'm not sure where to go to help me see this more clearly in my mind ...

Thanks again Kay Elizabeth!!!!!!
Changing the names will not make it impersonal. The reader didn't know their names before you told them, so calling them Joyce instead of Judy for example doesn't matter.

Are you 100% sure the ex-girlfriends won't mind their names and details of their past being in a book? They could sue under libel laws if they contest the content. Who's to say his version would be the same as theirs? The author should explain what he's going to say about them and ask them for their permission. And if he's not in contact with them, it's even more important to change any identifying features. Would you like to pick up a book by an author you know personally and find yourself in it without even knowing you were? I wouldn't.

The brother also could sue if he doesn't like the light he's cast in. Verbal isn't nearly as iron clad as written. Go ahead and take the risk if you're brave and are sure there is nothing that anyone would deem as negative in it about themselves. I think being lawsuit-free by sending a quick email they can respond to saying they give permission beats any worries about being impersonal every time.
Well, yeah, noting it in the preface would be the right thing to do, or put a footnoot under the names saying 'Name has been changed' or something like that
Thanks all for your responses ... the author will be getting written OK from those in the book and we will be changing the names ... we've decided to note it in the preface about the name change although I'm having a block on how to note it that the stories are true stories but the names other than family have been changed ... I've had a bad writers block this weekend ... my brain is on shut down ... Thanks again for all your feedback!!
Just watch any Lifetime movie for the answer. "The names have been changed to protect the innocent." ;)

Something like "These stories are true, although some names have been changed for privacy reasons. The author's family members names are correct, thanks to them kindly giving permission for their usage. "

That's about all you need. Look on your own bookshelf for some inspiration on how to phrase it. I bet you have at least one book where the names were changed. :)

Margi Taber said:
Thanks all for your responses ... the author will be getting written OK from those in the book and we will be changing the names ... we've decided to note it in the preface about the name change although I'm having a block on how to note it that the stories are true stories but the names other than family have been changed ... I've had a bad writers block this weekend ... my brain is on shut down ... Thanks again for all your feedback!!
Thanks so much Kay .... very helpful!!! I kept thinking of the "names are changed to protect the innocent" and kept getting visuals of the old "Dragnet" television show! lol






Kay Elizabeth said:
Just watch any Lifetime movie for the answer. "The names have been changed to protect the innocent." ;)

Something like "These stories are true, although some names have been changed for privacy reasons. The author's family members names are correct, thanks to them kindly giving permission for their usage. "

That's about all you need. Look on your own bookshelf for some inspiration on how to phrase it. I bet you have at least one book where the names were changed. :)

Margi Taber said:
Thanks all for your responses ... the author will be getting written OK from those in the book and we will be changing the names ... we've decided to note it in the preface about the name change although I'm having a block on how to note it that the stories are true stories but the names other than family have been changed ... I've had a bad writers block this weekend ... my brain is on shut down ... Thanks again for all your feedback!!
Ha! I'm going to look at you blankly now and pretend I'm not old enough to know what Dragnet is. ;) Glad that helped and don't be a stranger now just because you got your answer! :)



Margi Taber said:
Thanks so much Kay .... very helpful!!! I kept thinking of the "names are changed to protect the innocent" and kept getting visuals of the old "Dragnet" television show! lol






Kay Elizabeth said:
Just watch any Lifetime movie for the answer. "The names have been changed to protect the innocent." ;)

Something like "These stories are true, although some names have been changed for privacy reasons. The author's family members names are correct, thanks to them kindly giving permission for their usage. "

That's about all you need. Look on your own bookshelf for some inspiration on how to phrase it. I bet you have at least one book where the names were changed. :)

Margi Taber said:
Thanks all for your responses ... the author will be getting written OK from those in the book and we will be changing the names ... we've decided to note it in the preface about the name change although I'm having a block on how to note it that the stories are true stories but the names other than family have been changed ... I've had a bad writers block this weekend ... my brain is on shut down ... Thanks again for all your feedback!!
Hahahaha, Kay ... now I'm going to look at you blankly and pretend someone told me that was from Dragnet not that I'm old enough to remember :)

I just found this site a couple of weeks ago ... I've been pleased so far and plan to frequent it more ... not sure what I can offer since I'm new to this but nonetheless I'll be back!!





Kay Elizabeth said:
Ha! I'm going to look at you blankly now and pretend I'm not old enough to know what Dragnet is. ;) Glad that helped and don't be a stranger now just because you got your answer! :)



Margi Taber said:
Thanks so much Kay .... very helpful!!! I kept thinking of the "names are changed to protect the innocent" and kept getting visuals of the old "Dragnet" television show! lol






Kay Elizabeth said:
Just watch any Lifetime movie for the answer. "The names have been changed to protect the innocent." ;)

Something like "These stories are true, although some names have been changed for privacy reasons. The author's family members names are correct, thanks to them kindly giving permission for their usage. "

That's about all you need. Look on your own bookshelf for some inspiration on how to phrase it. I bet you have at least one book where the names were changed. :)

Margi Taber said:
Thanks all for your responses ... the author will be getting written OK from those in the book and we will be changing the names ... we've decided to note it in the preface about the name change although I'm having a block on how to note it that the stories are true stories but the names other than family have been changed ... I've had a bad writers block this weekend ... my brain is on shut down ... Thanks again for all your feedback!!
I hope I helped a little too! I remember Dragnet. I mean my grandpa told me about that show. Honest. :) We'll be glad to see you stick around, Margi. Keep us up to date on how the book's coming together please too.

Margi Taber said:
Hahahaha, Kay ... now I'm going to look at you blankly and pretend someone told me that was from Dragnet not that I'm old enough to remember :)

I just found this site a couple of weeks ago ... I've been pleased so far and plan to frequent it more ... not sure what I can offer since I'm new to this but nonetheless I'll be back!!

Hi Scribbler ... yes you helped too! I have appreciated the feedback I've received on this web site ... very cool site to get support around writing!

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