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When it comes to writing nonfiction there are legal matters to consider. This is especially true in memoir or ‘tell-all’ writing. To avoid legal issues in the publishing industry and protect yourself from a possible lawsuit there are two ways to consider moving ahead with your story.

Use Fictious Names for People and Places

Not all parties to your story may want their names written in a book. If there is, or has been, animosity between the author and persons named, or sensitive subject matter, a person may claim defamation of character. If, in fact, a person is slandered your words may destroy relationships, families, and businesses. When no slander is involved, a person may still choose to not have their name be made public. In these cases, you will want to

  • Use fictitious names to protect identities and places.
  • Ask permission to use names and have each person sign a release form giving that permission. These forms can be found online in various places, or possibly created by the author. Having an attorney look over the forms may be a good idea.

Writing Without Using Names

Writing without using names at all can avoid legal issues in the publishing industry.

While this type of writing may take a little more thought on how to tell your story without every detail, authors can avoid name changes, release forms, and any legal action taken against them. In this type of writing the author will focus on the main content of the story without particular details being disclosed.

  • The story can be told, for example, by using the word ‘hospital’ but not giving the name of the hospital. Or using ‘doctor’ without naming the doctor or using ‘school’ without the school’s name being given. Words such as ‘person’, ‘people’, ‘he’, she’, ‘parties involved’ without giving any names can save an author much headache.
  • The story can be told strictly from the author’s experience and how it affected him or her. If the author is willing to take the time to think it through, the specific point of the story can be told with no names given and all legal issues in the publishing industry avoided.