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Writing Books/Naming people in non-fiction


I would like to write a memoir of my experiences this year, which began with diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumour and ended with an interesting travel schedule as an R&R exercise.
I would like to know if I need permission from the health professionals who treated me to mention them by name?
And what of individuals I met while travelling?
I would like to specify that anyone whose name I know would only receive positive mention.
Thank you in advance for your time.
Kind regards

Thanks for your question, Jo-Ann.

There is no legal requirement to get permission to use the names of persons in a memoir. If you are uncomfortable using their names you may consider changing their names or changing some specifics of the circumstances around which you interacted with them. Rather than meeting someone during a hike in Brazil you could say you met them at a cafe in Paris. As long as you are true to the important elements and results of the story, the specifics do not matter to readers. Same thing with dialogue. You will not be able to remember specific words and sentences; but if you remember the basics and the results you will still be honest.

If you change names you should state that in the front of your book. Something general would work, such as "Some names have been changed." No need to give a reason. If you want to be specific you could use "Dr. John Smith on page thirty-two is not his real name."

Search your browser for "change names in memoirs" (without quotation marks) and lots of resources will come up.

Best wishes for every success.

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Wayne Groner


I can answer questions on all aspects of writing memoirs, biographies, family histories, and corporate histories including handling sensitive issues, interviewing, editing, self-publishing, and setting up a business as a memoir writer.


I have more than twenty-five years of experience as a radio and television news reporter, author, freelance writer, and workshop presenter. I present classes to nonprofits and professional groups, "How to Write Your Memoir or Life Story." I'm author of four nonfiction books. My latest book is A Guide to Writing Your Memoir or Life Story: Tools, Tips, Methods and Examples, available in paperback and eBook at Amazon. I'm past president of Springfield Writers' Guild (Missouri). My articles and book reviews on a variety of topics have been published in national magazines and on the Web. I was a senior-level college administrator for twenty-seven years, including nine years as a vice president, during which I wrote newsletters, brochures, magazine articles, and published and edited an alumni magazine.

Missouri Center for the Book, Springfield Writers' Guild, Greene County Historical Society, Christian County Historical Society.

Books: Witnesses of Hope, Faith, Love and Healing; Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance; The Pastor's Guide to Fund-raising Success; Levell-Drew Family History. National magazines including CASE Currents, Congregations, Ozarks Mountaineer, Your Community Hospice, Power and Light series of Sunday-school curriculum for adult learners.

Graceland College

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