Should I use actual names of characters in my book?

Discussion in 'Nonfiction Writing' started by Hottie1ma, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. Hottie1ma

    Hottie1ma New Member

    Hello, Im wanting to write a book about actual events in my life but I'm not sure if I should use characters names without asking them first? Any feedback, weather positive or negative would be greatly appreciated.
  2. rhombus

    rhombus New Member

    You would definitely need approval beforehand (in writing) to avoid future lawsuits.

    Whether they agree would largely depend of how they are portrayed in the book.
    Keep in mind this will be visible to their families, friends and colleagues and have a long lasting effect on their lives.
  3. freebird37

    freebird37 New Member

    If you use actual names I would ask permission first. A lot of people would probably love to be mentioned in a book if they are mentioned in a favorable way. That's totally your decision. If you want to avoid some problems down the road you may want to use fictional names in case you miss a few facts or something like that. You couldn't actually be blamed for misinformation if you are not using a real person's name. If you do use a real person's name I would make sure you get everything as accurate as possible because if they know you are using their name they are going to be scouring for mistakes. At least try to put them in a positive light if possible.
  4. Kwagacha

    Kwagacha New Member

    Whether portrayed positively or negatively, I would definitely go for fictional names when writing about biographical events, and there are two good reasons for this:
    1. It's probably the most prudent stance, legally speaking: Even if your account is actually and factually true, people who recognize themselves can ALWAYS infer that this was just your personal perspective and that this perpective caused them harm or unwarranted exposure or God knows what other "emotional distress," and may be able to take you to courst over it.
    2. It's also an excellent thing to use as a mental trick/tool: Naming your characters differently may give you the slight distance you need as an author to deliver a clean, more clearly-expressed, more objective, and perhaps even better thought-out story. As a mother, for example, writing about a child-killer may be the most harrowing experience, however many crime writers (who are mothers/fathers) are popular because they are able to bring out a detached, factual story woven from various perspectives, from a psychologist's to the evil murderer's.
    Good luck!
  5. Maxthewriter

    Maxthewriter New Member

    No. I don't think that will be legal, unless you take permission. Even still, I feel you shouldn't use people's actual names. You should name the characters yourself, then you may let your readers know that it's in honour of some persons.

    Using people's real life names wouldn't make the story more interesting. It would even make it 'stiff', kind of, as you'll be too careful of how you portray those characters.

    I suggest you chose names that are similar to the names of these people in real life and work with that. This wouldn't impede your creativity in any way. Have fun writing.
  6. ncruz

    ncruz New Member

    I took a university class in non-fiction writing, and my professor said the rule of thumb is, of course, to ask permission first!

    Generally, for non-fiction, I believe it highly depends on the kind of work you're producing. For instance, personal essays, speeches, memoirs and biographies may benefit from using real names since that would establish credibility for your written work. News articles would, too, unless you're writing about minors.
  7. 1812Hale

    1812Hale New Member

    I tried to write a book several times using actual names of people. The problem that I ran into was that I was afraid the people that I meantioned would be upset with my view of what they did or said. I decided to write a fictional story and just make up characters and names and use some real life experiences as story lines instead.
  8. Interrupted_Dad

    Interrupted_Dad New Member

    I have also started to write a non-fiction book about my real life experiences. While writing my first chapter (not the first chapter of the book, probably in the middle some where) I realized I don't talk to most of these people anymore and it would take longer to track them down to ask their permission to use their names. So I made a list of all the people involved in my chapter and assigned each one a fictional name. This way I am free and clear of any legal backlash. Most of my stories don't paint people in the best of ways. Mostly because we were all young, dumb, and drunk. I hope to put out my first chapter in the next month to "test the waters" and see if it is something that would be worth pursuing further.

    But the simplest answer as I have said, use fictional names.
    jhas1 likes this.
  9. jhas1

    jhas1 New Member

    You're definitely going to want to use pseudonyms for anyone you want to write into your book. Interrupted_Dad basically had the right idea, you're going to ideally want to make a list of every character involved in your story and assign them a pseudonym (could even be close to their real name to make it easy, but still keep their privacy.)
  10. Khalil A

    Khalil A New Member

    What is preferable is to avoid the using of usual names.
    There's an alternative to pick pseudonyms, in order to add a beautiful effect to your story and also to make the reader fully interested and to help him analyze.
    As we know, every name has a meaning : For example Lisa means to be devoted to God.
    So according to a special personality trait in your character, you choose the suitable name.
    It requires a lot of researches, but it is so good to you and to readers.
    Thank you.
  11. wisepost

    wisepost New Member

    I think that using real names in a book gives it more excitement for the reader, especially if they are well known , or famous ! But I too agree about getting approval before using anyone's name !
    I wrote a short story which is published on Amazon with a couple famous names in it , not realizing the severity of not asking them first for there approval . It is a book full of inspiration and If legal action were ever filed I wouldn't mind giving a percentage of its Royalties ! However" I will never make that mistake again . Thankfully the book hasn't sold many; if any copies yet ! So I still have time to ask permission, or change the names altogether !
  12. Interrupted_Dad

    Interrupted_Dad New Member

    How long was your short story? I seen somewhere on Amazon they don't accept anything under 2500 words. Honestly I don't see how you could paint a clear picture or something entertaining with that few words. One chapter in my book is about 10,000 words. I had a blast reliving the memories writing it. They were hilarious at that time and even more so now that I'm more mature and can see how foolish I was.
  13. Ashes099

    Ashes099 New Member

    Writing a book is definitely exciting. And ofcourse it can also get challenging. If i were to write.a book, i would use names of people that are special to ne. I would first ask for their permission. Because if they wouldnt want it, then it is my duty to respect that decision. If they wouldnt want to be in it then maybe i can just put their names in the dedication section.
  14. Abigail Joloyohoy

    Abigail Joloyohoy New Member

    Ask yourself first: if you were to read your name in a book, and the story really involves you, would you be happy? Whatever answer you have to this, then that's it. Although i think it would be better if you change the names instead of using their real names, because sometimes people also need their privacy.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  15. Ching Chi

    Ching Chi New Member

    I suggest not to use actual names of characters in your book. Importantly, you may involve in a conflict with affiliating them. In addition to that, having the actual names written in your book loosens up the mysteries. You might want to be a mysterious kind of writer that keeps the interest of readers by just giving a hint of who exactly you are referring to without sacrificing your content. On the other side, making a name of a character close to the actual name will drive your readers to a conclusion that your character is the actual person. For example, you named a character Elyza, when in real life it is Elizabeth. However, the conclusion that your character is an actual person will remain a mystery until you let them find more clues on the following pages.
  16. Dax Francisco

    Dax Francisco New Member

    I think the first thing you need to do before writing your non-fiction book is to ask yourself, who will be my reader and what message do I want to give them. If your reader will benefit from mentioning to them the actual personas then go ahead just make sure you ask permission. Otherwise your reader will most likely appreciate the learning you are willing to impart base on your experiences.
  17. ros_chicken

    ros_chicken New Member

    It would be great to ask permission to those people who'll be a character to your book. Maybe they will love it and appreciate to be part of your very own creation.
  18. SantosVB

    SantosVB Member

    Once you have the permission of the persons to use their names, it would be a detonate yes but writing a book should be about excitement on what ever topic so I think changing the names of those book characters would be something to look forward to and even altering your story, imagine someone close to you wanting to read that book, most likely they would already know your story, so changing up the names and altering the plot a little could be exciting and much to look forward to.
  19. falco80

    falco80 New Member

    I have the same issue about writing my life story. I think it's much easier to just use fake names and post the real names on an anonymous website. You could somehow point your readers to the anonymous offshore website where you post the real names matching the fake names you used. That way, legally speaking, no one can blame you for mentioning the real names. You could write the site domain somewhere in the book and tell people to go there. As the site would be offshore and anonymous, no one can accuse you of being the site owner. Notice that with an offshore anonymous website you can even post pirated movies, games and such. So it wouldn't be much of a hassle regarding simple people's names.
  20. Joco

    Joco New Member

    No. Never.
    That's my humble opinion.
  21. wisdom

    wisdom New Member

    I'm not sure if there is a law prohibiting a person to use true names of persons in writing a book. However, so as not to cause any 'bad karmic effect' towards yourself - I believe it is better to use fictional names. This way, living people involved in your life story would not get hurt if the story line gets extremely against their favor.
    But if you'd like to mention them in your book, you can do so in another page. Good luck to your endeavor.
  22. Jayzika100

    Jayzika100 New Member

    It would be nice to use different names for the characters in your book. If your story is based on a real life experience, some of the people involved might not be happy using their names in that story esp. when they have contributed to the main character's struggle in life. Your truth may not be their truth and they may find it hard to accept some events in the stories where they are involved. Thinking for different names is easy so this should you less worries.
  23. waelmanz

    waelmanz New Member

    True names may cause legal problems. Sometimes true names will not mean anything for the readers. I think true names are important in two cases:
    1-Political writing because the readers have the right to know the real names. It's the future of their country and the world. Everything should be clear..
    2-When the writer wants to show gratitude to important persons in his life.

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