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Writing Books/Question: Names of People & Businesses in Book.

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QUESTION: I read another question and answer about writing a book that's based on real
facts, plus the answer that she must have written or documented proof before
continuing with the book. I also understand how anyone who chooses to do
so, can ruin your career as an author, and while I write I am having mixed
feelings about the mention of names of people and businesses that are
currently in the news, but will ask anyway for other folks who are
contemplating the same thing! And I want to thank you in case I forget at the
end.

I am writing a book about being homeless and with all the corruption, greed,
self-servitude, and more in today's society, can I get in serious trouble for
putting in the names of businesses and people that are in the news as well as
the public's eyes? Following is what I added to the book, but can delete if
need be: Bank of America; Wells Fargo; many different religious businesses;
the city of Stockton and discrimination of which I have paperwork;Tom
Daschle; Timothy Geithner; Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew
Johnson, Ulysses S. Grand, and Rutherford B. Hayes (in positive mention); John
F. Kennedy (also positive mention along with Princess Di); Regan; Arnold
Schwarzenegger; Kenneth D. Lewis;  Joe L. Price; Richard M. (Dick)
Kovacevich; John G. Stumpf; and Howard I. Atkins, so far. Am I taking my
chances and should I replace any names like with Regan and say otherwise
something like 'our 40th president'? The many banks and presidents as well,
can I leave them or do the same with just having titles and not names while
still saying how much money was wasted? It will be my fourth book, and
usually I like to write Fictional Romance, Westerns, Sci-Fi, Historical Romance,
et al, but with all the greed, hate, self-servitude, and more in our country
today, while our Middle-class is too quickly being forced into poverty or
become as greedy and self-serving, it angers me while I see very little to
nothing done for the homeless while their numbers are growing, as well as
the working class poor and senior citizens struggle to keep a roof over their
heads while the wealthy just turn their noses up at all of us! I've talked to men
and women who had wonderful jobs only to be shoved out by 'cheap labor'
and the hiring of kids, while I've been done the same! I've also talked to
mothers who sometimes sleep in shelters and are thankful that they still have
their children with them, while struggling to find something permanent with
welfare turning them down because they're not black, which I've also been
done the same way! I'm 56; no job; staying with a kind friend - though some
have told me he's my guardian angel; bad credit; while playing the lottery
when I can with hope that someday I'll have a home where it will be open to
others as in an 'Intentional Community'. I've written a book on my struggles
to stay positive as I bounced from one place to another starting about 6 years
(1994) before being able to go to college and learn a new career, then my
continued struggles up to 2008, then I end the book. But back to the book
I'm writing now, should I replace the names of the people even though they're
currently in the public's eyes and on the news as well as the Internet news? It
is my first, and probably 'only' one where I'll be asking questions as it dawned
on me last night when I was going to bed, so this morning I did a Google
search on the topic of 'llegalities of publishing names of people in books' and
choose your site out of many listed. My 'gut instinct' is that I should drop the
names, but will still ask for my own benefit, as well as others who may be
contemplating doing the same thing or something similar.

I again want to thank you for taking the time to answer this 'long' question. I
also some day hope to be as famous as many of you! I wrote my 'very first
two' books in long-hand in 1972 and my late granny told me I had a gift of
telling a wonderful story that made her feel like it was a 'true' story, when in
reality they were both fictional. Some of my college friends and mother are
encouraging me to continue, while some are telling me that that's where I
should focus myself, including my English Professors. I love to write and my
very first book that took me 7 years to finish is now out there, and I have two
others to proof yet, plus another dozen that I'm working on as well and more
to follow, but all Fictional, though some are based on 'Real Events' like
spousal abuse and child abuse, though no one is mentioned - only 'fictional
characters' or so I hope since people are getting weird now while they name
their children!

ANSWER: Hello Steve,

My advice, stick with what you do best. When you broach the topic of non-fiction and start slinging real companies and real people around that may or may not include accusations without factual documentation to back these accusations up, you are taking a huge chance at being sued for libel and slander. A lawyer is always advisable if you insist on writing this story. Otherwise, I'd steer clear.

Absolutely continue with your dream of writing. If you come across someone with a negative opinion about your writing, just remember, this is one person's opinion. Others may not agree.

Good luck,

J.L.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Howdy again J.L.;

Just writing back to say 'thanks'! I'm debating if I want to trash what I've
written so far, or totally edit it taking out names, while even cutting it down
even more! Is it wrong to mention how greedy and self-serving people can
be? Is it wrong to mention about slumlords and bad tenants/roommates
without mentioning names? Is it wrong to mention how much money was
wasted and could have been spent better elsewhere? Is it wrong to mention
how much money some people make and where it could be used while not
mentioning who made what? I am just so angered at all the lies our
government is telling us and has told us, plus all that wasted money that
could have gone to the people and not the banks, et al! I will wait to see what
you say, while I will stop on that book until I hear back. It is just so
frustrating at how many of us Americans and especially working class poor,
and the poor could use that money!

My mother was thrilled to get a copy of my first book that I had done through
CreateSpace and let me know of a few errors, but otherwise she says that she
likes the way that I can tell a story and have it flow. My late granny read my
first two in long-hand back in 1972 and she was just as impressed and told
me that I had a gift of writing while encouraging me to continue. Well, 28
years later and I started my first book, with others that I wrote on as well, but
finished that first one, which took  7 years (off and on writing)! I have one I've
got some drastic editing, while the one my mother has and is reading, she is
going to send me notes on where I need to edit my story, plus. I also have to
redo the credits as I mentioned she was a Journalist at Canoga Park High, but
it was my Aunt Patty who went to Canoga Park High, while mom went to
Hamilton High - big difference, but she's cool! I love writing and have the 'gift
of gab' while here I 'babble'. Writing helps me escape the realities of life and
escape into my many characters, which so far all of them have a part of me in
them, or a part that I wish I was, but am not!

Thank you so much again for letting me know about 'broaching' and I'm
seriously thinking about that book and deleting it, or drastically editing it, but
again, will wait and see what you say to these questions then go from there! If
it's the same suggestion, I'll trash it and get back to what I do best, while
letting the anger 'chill' with hope that maybe some day a miracle will happen
and greedy, self-serving, hateful people will wake up before it's too late, I
hope!!  

Answer
Hello Steve,

Authors always have a story to tell, hence our driven desire to write, write, write... There are many contexts that we write in, some fictional, some non-fictional. What you need to do is write what you are passionate about, be it this anger generated political suspense story, or stories of characters that hold a special place in your heart. You and only you need to decide what to write, focus on the one idea and channel all that energy into the subject.

My opinion, is of no consequence to you. You must do what you find fulfills your desire to write. The bottom line is, the readers out there will determine the success of any novel/story. If you are writing for you, then write what is in your heart. The rest will fall in place.

Good luck, and you are welcome,

J.L.

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J.L. Slipak

Expertise

Novel writing is my specialty but I've several articles advocating for human rights and the rights of special needs. I've also written children stories, historical romance, fantasy, trilogies, and non-fiction. I have editorial experience and have worked with literary agents, self-publishing, publishing companies in both the United States and Canada. I imagine I can answer any questions asked about this field, and if not, can direct the question to someone who could.

Experience

six articles, two novels, three children's books, two triologies and currently working on an auto-biography

Education/Credentials
BFA, working towards my masters

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