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Thorny question and it's beautifully answered here by Stephanie J. Hale when she shared this with my readers.

 

Writers often ask me if it’s ok to write about people they know. Sometimes they’re writing a memoir or autobiography. Or perhaps they’re writing a novel with a hero or villain based on someone they know.

There are various little tricks you can use to make sure that people don’t recognize themselves. You can change physical appearance – stature, hair length, eye colour, etc. You can also change gender, profession, or location. Or you can blend two or more different people together to create a different character.

Believe it or not, the chances are most people won’t recognize themselves. I say this as someone who has both written about other people and been written about as a character.

When I have created characters based on people I know, they have never spotted themselves! Never. Not once. Similarly, I failed to recognize a thinly disguised portrait of myself in a Booker-shortlisted novel. Thankfully, the portrait was a flattering one. Though I won’t tell you the name of the book – that’s a little secret between me and the author!

Read more here.

 

What's your approach? 

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Replies to This Discussion

The short stories I've written are about people, and events, that actually took place over the years. When I decided to put them together on Kindle I contacted all the persons I could, sent them a copy of the story they're in, and all were happy to approve use of their family name. It most often was an event that slipped from their memory and it was a pleasant journey back to that time and place.

If I were to ever write anything negative, I'd use a different name for sure, but that hasn't happened yet.

This is such an interesting topic for me because as I consider my own book;not yet in print, I want to know how to stay true to the story without mentioning the names of those that are involved. 

I recently published my memoir, From The Other Side Of The Tracks through authorHouse.  Initially, the book was for my twin boy’s to read after my passing.  The completion of the memoir too, was to fulfill a promise I made to my foster mother before she passed in my arms.

First, let me say, I’m no one special or famous.  But I’m someone that survived and continue to survive despite my tragic beginning.  We can not choose to be born.  We can not choose our parents.  Yet, we are all precious.  We all deserve love.  This is what I discovered throughout my journey in life.  My writing helped my discovery too.  I love and protect that little girl I see when I look in the mirror.  

I agonized over weather or not to use real names and places.  Especially, when I was encouraged to publish the book for the public by my editor.  What happened to me, is the fact, the publisher I used, has a strict policy when it comes to memoirs.  All names and places must be changed.  Even my name had to be changed in order for them to publish.  Bill O’Reilly is someone I dated briefly at 25.  They said unless I get his permission to use his name, I would have to change.  Sean O’Grady is his name in the book.  

Although I published my book and it is available on Amazon, etc., I decided not to spend additional money trying to market the book.  I must say, that I do feel less anxiety knowing that I didn’t use real names in my memoir.  My son’s both have finished the book.  They understand their mother’s overly protective nature towards them now.   My profound love for them too.

If I can offer any advise to anyone struggling with the decision to publish or not; to use fictitious names or not, just trust your instincts.  I’ve heard only one in a thousand people who want to write their memoir, actually do.  I’m proud of myself for completing my memoir.  The fact that I ended the book with the birth of my twins, 25 years ago, leaves a lot left to write about.  I’m working on my second book currently.  

Thank everyone for your comments it has truly shaped my direction. I have had such life altering experiences and have overcome them in such magnitude that surely my story will help others. I understand to through these comments how important it is to protect those indirectly involved in my struggle. GOD has used you all experience and wisdom to move forward. 

Tanya Robinson said:

Well done Eva.  So many of us have had lives which put fictional tales to shame.  We have lived through and survived so much.  Although it may not be the most popular genre there are people who are interested.  Also I think it is a gift to society in general and to those who are struggling to see that horrendous obstacles may be overcome, or at least survived, by ordinary individuals.  We do not have to be well know or famous to make our books interesting and relevant.  I wish you every success with your current book and the forthcoming one. 
 
Eva Elle Rose said:

I recently published my memoir, From The Other Side Of The Tracks through authorHouse.  Initially, the book was for my twin boy’s to read after my passing.  The completion of the memoir too, was to fulfill a promise I made to my foster mother before she passed in my arms.

First, let me say, I’m no one special or famous.  But I’m someone that survived and continue to survive despite my tragic beginning.  We can not choose to be born.  We can not choose our parents.  Yet, we are all precious.  We all deserve love.  This is what I discovered throughout my journey in life.  My writing helped my discovery too.  I love and protect that little girl I see when I look in the mirror.  

I agonized over weather or not to use real names and places.  Especially, when I was encouraged to publish the book for the public by my editor.  What happened to me, is the fact, the publisher I used, has a strict policy when it comes to memoirs.  All names and places must be changed.  Even my name had to be changed in order for them to publish.  Bill O’Reilly is someone I dated briefly at 25.  They said unless I get his permission to use his name, I would have to change.  Sean O’Grady is his name in the book.  

Although I published my book and it is available on Amazon, etc., I decided not to spend additional money trying to market the book.  I must say, that I do feel less anxiety knowing that I didn’t use real names in my memoir.  My son’s both have finished the book.  They understand their mother’s overly protective nature towards them now.   My profound love for them too.

If I can offer any advise to anyone struggling with the decision to publish or not; to use fictitious names or not, just trust your instincts.  I’ve heard only one in a thousand people who want to write their memoir, actually do.  I’m proud of myself for completing my memoir.  The fact that I ended the book with the birth of my twins, 25 years ago, leaves a lot left to write about.  I’m working on my second book currently.  

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