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Writing Books/Fiction or non-fiction?

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Question
Dear Dorothy,

I want to write a novel based on my life experience growing up in another country - I want to
describe    quite a few characters, including myself, my family, friends, and
former classmates. My hometown is going to be an important character by itself -
I want to describe it detail.

However, I want to stay away from creating yet another  memoir. I will change the
names of the characters, but I don't want to alter descriptions of particular
situations. Am I safe from the legal point of view? And should I present it as a
fiction or non-fiction?

Thank you!


Answer
Hello Jennya,

Once you change names the work becomes fiction and you must describe it as such; however, if you relate the action and situations exactly as it happened, you will be notifying all who read that it is based on reality.  You may create enemies this way.  Some may try to accuse you of libel if they can prove that you are writing about them.  You could state that some characters are truly named  and some are not to hide identity, if you wish.  You must decide if you wish to write fiction or a memoir.  If you chose fiction, you could chose an entirely different time period and place.  If you use your hometown and describe it closely, you are close to non-fiction.  You must decide one or the other.  I think I would go with non-fiction/memoir in this case.  You would be close to the line here.

Best wishes,
Dorothy

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Dorothy K Morris

Expertise

I can answer questions about writing fiction, creating characters and re-writing. I cannot answer homework questions.

Experience

I am a published author of nine novels in The Mockingbird Hill Series.

Organizations
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, NSDAR

Publications
NOVELS in the MOCKINGBIRD HILL SERIES: SECRET SINS OF THE MOTHERS, COYOTES OF CREEK CROSSING, THE EIGHTH EVIL, THE TIME IN BETWEEN, DIRTY RICE, TALLY'S NOOK, FROM THE FAR PLACES, NATURE OF THE BEAST, (THE RANKS OF THE INSANE (to come out summer 2016))

Education/Credentials
Studied writing at at American University in DC

Awards and Honors
Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in The World, Who's Who in America.

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