A Writer’s Guide to Defamation and Invasion of Privacy

A MUST READ for anyone thinking of writing their memoirs, or even stories based on people they know…

Tribalmystic Stories

I found this gem on Writer’s Digest. I am writing a memoir and I asked the question, “who will you hurt when you write?” in an earlier post. I think this article by Attorney Amy Cook answers that question in some aspects. 

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A Writer’s Guide to Defamation and Invasion of Privacy

by Amy Cook

A memoir is your story, but of course it will involve many other people. Most of us have not led completely charmed lives. Everyone has ups and downs, and those who write memoirs usually have had mountains and valleys—that’s what makes them so interesting. Recent bestselling memoirs are replete with addiction, abuse, homelessness and triumph over these adversities. But do the other people in your story want theirs told? Are there elements that might be embarrassing to them? Will their memories be in sync with yours?

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3 thoughts on “A Writer’s Guide to Defamation and Invasion of Privacy

  1. This is an even more critical thing for a self-published author, despite the article noting that publishers typically have a clause in their contracts with authors calling for the author to reimburse them for legal costs if they author defamed someone. As someone with a JD who self-published a memoir about a whole bunch of quirky people (including former spouses and others) I knew well the risks I took. I weighed them in going ahead. Although I changed names of non-family members, I couldn’t change the family names. Changing the non-family members would not protect me completely. What does is that the parts that could be a problem are from events and dialogue that occurred 40 years before I published the book that occurred in Vietnam. Only people who had been in the actual military unit at that same time and place could recognize the individuals whose marijuana or alcohol issues were noted. With those circumstances, I felt OK with it. Aside from that, the one whose words and behavior had him coming off the worst would have been in his 80s when I published the book if he had lived that long. I will skip mentioning why he probably would not have survived to that age, but I felt confident he wouldn’t have. So my advice to anyone is to be careful and assess the potential risk.

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