As you can see in this post, something that occurred to me while trying to decide if my story I'm working on should be a memoir (I can still see it that way) or a fictionalized memoir (or fiction based on real-life) is about using names. Fear over lawsuits, or at the very least angry comments from the person(s) who sees their name mentioned is just the first thing that occurred to me.
Would I really need to hire a lawyer, as the comment in the linked post above says? My boss said the other day when I showed her the post, "Don't even go there." I guess not, at least for now.
I recently saw this article on defamation and invasion of privacy in writing. From the article:
Changing names and descriptions may not be enough if other details give away who the subject really is. And this doesn’t just apply to memoir, either. In a famous case where a novelist created a character based on a real person, she changed his name and physical description, but not much else. The author, Gwen Davis Mitchell, had attended a “Nude Marathon” therapy session in which participants shed their clothing in hopes that psychological inhibitions would go along with it. (Need I mention that this was 1970s California?) Prior to attending the session, Mitchell had signed a contract pledging she wouldn’t in any way disclose what had transpired. After the book, Touching, was released, Dr. Paul Bindrim sued the author and her publisher for defamation, saying that the character Dr. Simon Herford was clearly based on him, that colleagues identified him as Herford, and that his words and actions during the sessions had been inaccurately depicted.
Mitchell’s character was described as a “fat Santa Claus type with long white hair, white sideburns, a cherubic rosy face and rosy forearms,” whereas Bindrim was cleanshaven and had short hair. In ruling in favor of Bindrim, the court said the only differences between the character and the man were physical, and that otherwise they were very similar.
Yeah calling someone "Bob Smith" when their real initials are "B.S," or changing their first name from "Tina" to "Terry," may not be enough to disguise their identity.
Something else that I brought up the other day. I know this is thinking too far ahead, but should I ever get published and then someone wants to make a film out of my book. It seems every book these days is material for movie adaptations. I've seen a lot of books recently whose plot just screams movie. The thing is about whether or not to mention names (real or fictional) in the story. If it did ever get published and became a film, how do you film a book with unnamed characters? And have there been any books with anonymous characters, that have been made into films? Again, I know this is thinking too far ahead. But for the time being, it's getting repetitive and boring just saying "this one girl," "this one guy," "a girl I knew," and such. In some cases, I don't remember the names as it was someone I never saw again after that one particular time. And in other cases, I have the feeling the person(s) in question won't even remember they did what I said they'd done to me, or try to deny it.