“My friend threatened to sue me for quoting her (but not naming her) in a short story. What can I do?”

“My friend threatened to sue me for quoting her (but not naming her) in a short story. What can I do?”

Q – 

I’m a short story writer and sometimes a person will say a word or phrase that “inspires me.” I did this when a friend inspired me with her story. I wrote a short with a phrase but I used the word “I,” implying to readers I was referring to myself. 

Then I sent it to her, stupidly saying, “I wrote a story about you.” I used the wrong stupid words. I don’t think she even read it and said, “get rid of it or else.” I didn’t get rid of it because it’s one of my best stories. I just changed the title.

When I got my short story book published, I sent it to her. She said, “thank you,” and didn’t even notice the story, which shows it didn’t reflect on her in any way, except for her few inspiring words.

But, I confessed three years later that I felt sorry for using the wrong words “about you” when telling her about it, and upsetting her. She responded with, “If you write about me, I’ll sue you.” I explained that the “offensive story” was in the book I gave her three years ago and that she didn’t even notice. 

I’d never write about someone without their permission, not because I am being threatened with a lawsuit, but because I don’t want to hurt them.

Am I in danger from this deranged ex-friend from hell?

A – 

I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney for any legal questions you have. This is simply my opinion.

My first question is…why are you still friends with that person after she first threatened you with, “Get rid of it or else?”

Second, after she threatened you, why did you then tell her you went ahead and used her inspirational words as the catalyst for a short story years later?? I understand the need to be brutally honest with people (I am the exact same way) but…why did you put yourself in legal jeopardy by doing so, especially since it would not bring any harm to her at all?? Uggg….

Third, she said something that inspired you to write the story. The story is not about her. You simply used some words she said as inspiration. And, you wrote the story in first person and referred to yourself (“I”).

I can’t imagine any lawyer who would take a case like this – not even one of those slimy ones who file frivolous lawsuits.

I’d love to see the story in question.

In the meantime, don’t contact that person again. Nobody needs friends like that…especially writers! If she writes to you, ignore her. If she texts you, ignore her. If she calls you, ignore her. She’s probably just a drama queen who likes making other people miserable in order to get attention.

Only if you get a letter from an attorney should you respond and I seriously doubt you ever will.

Remember that engaging bullies feeds them. Every response gives them added incentive to keep bullying. I have found, over my two decades of exposing scammers, and receiving false threats from those bullies, that not responding to them is the best tactic. They eventually give up and seek out another victim.

If she wants to hire a lawyer, fine. Some lawyers take on ridiculous clients knowing they have a losing case. Only after billing them for dozens of hours will their sleazy client learn what a poor case they have (no case at all!). Let her rack up thousands in legal bills on a frivolous lawsuit. That’ll teach her a lesson.


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One Response to "“My friend threatened to sue me for quoting her (but not naming her) in a short story. What can I do?”"

  1. Patrick Howard  November 22, 2019 at 1:34 am

    Congrats on publishing your book. I knew a great man who said, among other memorable things, “Yes it sure is fun to quote other people and pretend you thought it up yourself.”

    Got it?