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Aloha... I am wanting to know what the situation is when you write a story that is real and use a real persons name.  When do you have to get permission from that person to be able to use their name.  i.e. some of my ex husbands and I's adventure in life.  Can I get around this by changing the persons name and other details to 'disguise' them. I am very unclear on all of this.  And as a lot of my stories are about events in my life that involve other people.  I am a bit stumped.  The book is about manifesting what you want in your  life. So I have used examples from my own life to illustrate how things happen. Thanks very much... and aloha. :-)  

Hello Meg:

I am not a lawyer, but through researching libel law for my own purposes, I learned the following:

You are free to write (publish/make available to public) anything about anyone you want, with no/little risk of being sued SO LONG AS IT IS TRUE. In order to sue you, the plaintiff must prove (1) that you have lied; (2) that s/he has a reputation to protect, and (3) the lie(s) you told have injured his/er reputation to the tune of X dollars. You are free to voice your opinion, i.e., "Joe is the ugliest person I've ever seen," but if you say, "Joe won last year's Ugliest Person Award," when he didn't, you're on shaky ground.

It is not likely that your family/friends' reputations (read "income") could be grievously harmed by what you write. As a courtesy, however, it's always a good idea to tell them what you are doing, ask if it's ok, and offer to let them read the draft and ok it. You might also ask them to sign a release, but if they refuse, you are under no obligation to follow their wishes.

This is really a legal question, and if you ever publish your work, you should consult a lawyer about this, and any contract you might get.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 850 questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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