Tuesday, 16 August 2011

True Identities - How Much Truth Should you Reveal About your Real Life Characters?

I am sure this is an issue faced by writers worldwide: just how much truth should you reveal about people when you write about real life events?

For me I have spent many hours worrying about this. When I typed out the first draft of my first book, I didn't really consider much else apart from getting down as many words as possible. It was only after I had finished and read the whole thing back to myself, that it occured to me that I would have to change most of what I had said. I decided to do some research on the legal issue of libel, and frightened myself so much I couldn't sleep for the rest of the week!

What I did conclude from my research is libel is a very serious matter. I would simply have to change all information that could potentially reveal someones identity; there was simply no other way to escape such trouble. If I was going be unlucky and someone read my work, they had every right to take me to court if they decided they didn't like how they were portrayed. And this stands true whether you were telling the truth or not. If someone can recognise themselves and have enough evidence to prove it's them, then the writer is clearly in trouble.

In my book there are several places where I portray people in the negative sense. All of the events did happen but I've had to change everything about the event to prevent people from saying it's definitely about them. This includes the times, dates, and locations. People's gender, nationalities, ages, physical descriptions et al. You name it - I've changed it! After all, you can never be too careful.

I'm repeating the same process for my second book but at least now I know where I stand on this issue, and I won't have to waste time going back to change every single detail. Besides, it's rather fun getting creative and giving people a whole new identity.

What is your opinion on this issue, have you yourself ever had any problems? Have you been written about in a negative sense?

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