Writing Books/Using names


I want to write a book about my life and something could shed some light on some of the people of my life. Would it be a good idea NOT to use their real names.

Assuming the reason you don't want to use their real names is to avoid a lawsuit, let me give you a laypersonís answer, because I'm not an attorney. If you are concerned about being sued, merely changing the names may not be enough to avoid being sued for libel. Libel is a false and malicious published statement that damages somebody's reputation. People can sue for libel if they think their identity will be obvious to readers, even if the name is changed. They can sue even if you tell the truth, too, in hopes a judge will decide in their favor. The only good defense against libel is not merely a name change but also ensuring that the information is not false. If you can be prove the information to be true, it probably will not be found to be libelous in a court of law.

I can tell you, though, that in writing my memoirs, I often use real names for my close relatives, but change the names of others, because I have no idea what they may be doing or thinking today, after all these years, and I don't want to upset anyone if I can help it. I also don't stretch for information I am not certain about; I tell the truth.

Memoirs get written and published all the time; the decision to change the names will be left up to you. The only thing that is not negotiable is whether the information is true or not.  

By the way, I hope you'll subscribe to my free newsletter for writers. Go to www.zebraeditor.com and click on "Free Newsletter."

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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