Brand new to this endeavor. Last year, I started writing to create a “new ending” to a relationship story that ended badly for me. I found I really enjoy writing and want to continue. I do want to see if this work is worthy of being published.
My question: I’ve changed the name of the male character but the name of his vacation home is unique and is a pivotal point in the story. I’m keeping my name in the book. It’s a story of his infidelity and betrayal of his family. It includes text messages and e-photos that I received from this individual. If the messages don’t name specific people, and the photos are not face recognizable, am I still at risk of a lawsuit?
Thanks for any advice you can provide this newbie.
I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney for any legal questions you have.
That said…you need to know that the letters, emails, and photos he sent to you are his property, not yours. You would need to get his permission to publish them. And, yes, any personal story, even fictionalized, can put an author at risk of a lawsuit. If I was in your shoes, I’d anonymize everything, changing all names (yes, definitely even the vacation home), all details, locations, genders of some characters, etc. I’d write it under a pseudonym, and call it fiction. Nobody should be able to recognize themselves or the story of they could sue you.
You really need to consult with an attorney because this type of project can really come back to bite you in the back-side if you aren’t very careful.
- Well, Excuuuuuse Me for Trying to Protect You From a Lawsuit!
- Don’t Invite Lawsuits by Real People Featured in Your Book! (Hint: You Can Still Be Sued Even If You Don’t Name Them!)
- Featuring Real People in Your Writing? Protect Yourself From Lawsuits!
- Boldly Assuming You “Can’t Be Sued” Will Likely Lead to a Lawsuit
- Don’t Invite a Lawsuit with Your Memoir
- More Q&A with Angela!
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In, I guess, about the 1940s a man here in Montecito/Santa Barbara wrote a tell all book, like Peyton Place. His divorcing wife called and said she was going to kill herself. He heard the gun shot and scream so called the police then went to her home. She had fired at the wall and the bullet ricocheted and hit her leg. The event was in Montecito (site of recent debris flow/mud slide), very upscale place. The assistant editor of our daily paper (his father owned it) showed up and the husband begged him not to print the story because his family was socially “up there”. Front page news the next day, his reason for the book. I think it was a best seller because everyone in Montecito wanted to know what everyone else was doing, places were real and the people had made up names. Disclaimer of course, simply fiction! The author had to leave town. No law suits as I’m sure, as you mentioned, would happen today. I really enjoy reading this site, thank you. Judy Pearce
Good to know advice!