Question I enjoyed your informative site. I am writing a true story about my father's haunting relationship with his physically abusive father from the late 1920's to early 1940's and how at 64 years old, my father was finally able to face his pain. Both have now passed, but prior to my father's passing, he confided to me through talks, notes and his tapes that he wanted me to write his story to perhaps help other proud men who carried their pain in silence for years. My question is... he had a younger brother (who has recently passed) who played a painful, but fringe role in my father's story. Also, my father and his brother were very well known in our hometown so changing his brother's name would not suffice. His younger brother has children who would not give their permission. So I am wondering if there would be any legal issues with them by including my father's younger brother in his true story. Thanks, Diane
Answer Thanks for your question, Diane.
Writing about painful memories regarding people who are living is always a challenge. There is no requirement in the law that you get permission from relatives. Even if you got permission, and even if it was in writing, that is no guarantee you would not be sued.
As long a you do not libel or defame persons named in your memoir, you should be okay. I suggest you consult with an attorney as to libel and defamation definitions, and to see what his best advice is for your situation.
Best wishes for every success.
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Wayne's response was informative, knowledgeable and timely.
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.
Organizations Missouri Center for the Book, Springfield Writers' Guild, Greene County Historical Society, Christian County Historical Society.
Publications 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.