HomeOnline Mentoring ProgramServicesAbout UsArticlesAsk the ExpertQuestions & AnswersWriter Resources/LinksReferralsClient TestimonialsGuidelinesContact Us

Questions & Answers

Subject: Writing About Incriminating Events
Question: Hi, I am really considering writing about my experiences and challenges as a person who comes from another country as an  international student and I have years of experiences to talk about,from when I was a preteen to the present.The problem I have is that I would like to write it as a nonfiction using the first person point of view.It would be nice because it would make it more personal,and it is a personal topic.

The problem comes in when speaking about matters that might be crossing the lines of legality or just perhaps being ethically unsound.I wouldn't want to hurt my family's reputation or my own but then again on the other hand,I don't want to write it as a fiction and creating a totally fictional family and writing it in third person.

Do you have any advice for me?Is it possible to make it fiction based on fact and just mention in the beginning that some events are actual and some are fictionalized and then still write it in first person,as if the main character were me? If I did that then could I possibly be tried in court for some of the things I may have said?
Thanks for any advice.
Answer: Yes, there is a possibility of liable for naming real people and unsavory events, etc.

But since it's "your family," why can't you get their written permission to include them in your non-fiction book?

I imagine, the only way they would not allow you to name and use them, is if there is some negative information.

If you can not obtain permission from any of them, or can for just some, I would suggest renaming the ones that will not give permission, and use the real names for the ones that do give their permission.

And, as you stated in your question, insert a statement in the beginning of the book about some people and events are fictionalized to protect their identities and for literary entertainment purpose.

This should work for those that do not want to be identified and won't give permission.

In general; household names can be used: celebrities, name brands, etc. IF used in brief, and in a good light. No negativity.

Name brands are always capitalized: Coca-Cola, Kodak, McDonalds, etc.

Whenever a writer is presenting an autobiography, biography, and non-fiction book; they must speak of someone favorably to prevent liability for slander, defamation of character, and more, etc.

The only method to protect yourself, the writer/author, is to use the opening statement (as you see on some television shows and in books) that some parts are fictional and some are non-fictional.

Good luck with your endeavor, and you might consult with a literary attorney on this before proceeding. It would be worth the cost and the effort.

By the way, your English is excellent.

<<back    page  1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8... 9... 10

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for that quick response. If i put the disclaimer on the introduction and use fabricated characters with different names based on the people involved in my events then it should be okay even if the people in real life are able to identify themselves in the book?

The more important question,however, is if I decide to write  the story as fiction based on fact, should I just write it in first person point of view as my own account, or would it be possible for me to use a fictional character with a similar name and still use the first person point of view?The reason why I'm asking is because I don't want readers to negatively judge my actions or thoughts in the book.
Thanks again,

Answer: I believe, you have "your life and the people in it" as the story and plot all in itself.

Readers like 3rd person narrative and, this gives you, the writer, unlimited room to write the story and "tell" (actually "show" never "tell") the story without the limitations of 1st person.

1) You already have the story: plot, subplots, and climatic ending

2) You already have all the characters, and can add fictional characters to enhance the story plot

3) You can then write in the 3rd person narrative, and be free of limitations

4) Genre it "fictional" and there is no liability (no one can prove or disprove 'who' the characters are because it is written, published, and marketed as "fiction."

So there you have it.


Questions & Answers taken from AllExperts.com in my writing books category where I am an expert. These are many various questions I receive daily.