General Question

arches140's avatar

When a memoir is published, do the names of the real people within it have to be changed or can they remain?

Asked by arches140 (72 points ) August 10th, 2011

Just curious if there are standards rules for this in publishing. I personally haven’t read any memoirs which kept the real names for their “characters.”

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10 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

It seems to depend on a few factors. Like is the person previously unknown, or already sort of famous? If you’re a former president publishing a memoir, you can’t really change the name of your chief of staff when telling the tale of that one time you guys were in the Oval Office and something happened. Not only will everyone know, but the story looses potency. But if no one will know who the person is, and it’s not really relevant, and you want to protect them (or protect yourself from their wrath), then sure. If you’re unknown, I think you ask the immediate people around you if they want an alias or not. The rest, you probably change because it’s easier for everyone that way.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Well, they can remain.. and without permission, as far as I know. My husband is mentioned in someone’s memoir, and his real name was used without prior notification. It was more like “oh, hey, here I am in this book!”

Hibernate's avatar

If they do not keep the real name then they are not memoirs and just fiction even if what happened there is true.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Hibernate Not necessarily. You might have to put in a little *Names have been changed, but I’ve seen it done tons of times.

zenvelo's avatar

Frank McCourt, who wrote the memoir Angela’s Ashes, used the real names of his family and the people he knew.

Hibernate's avatar

Oh well. I didn’t read all the books. I don’t understand why they would change the name though.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s up to the author’s sense and sensibility and his own ideas about what should and should not be shared “of others” with the rest of the world. Obviously, he’s putting his own life in a picture window, but it’s up to his art, craft and friendly / family relations who gets put in the window with him, and whether they’re named or not.

In the end, there’s no legal restriction, because “truth is a defense against libel”. As long as the memoir is factually true – and he can prove that if it comes to a legal case – then he’s covered, legally.

filmfann's avatar

I would love to write a book about people I have worked with, but I fear being sued. Or shot.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

One of my high school friends was mentioned in the book, by name.

sliceswiththings's avatar

My memoir will be a best-seller one day :) I plan to use the real names of the people who have completely positive roles or extremely negative roles (i.e. I don’t care about offending them). I will change the names of people who are mostly positive but I will be saying some bad things about. If these people’s families and friends read my book, they don’t need to know about their son/nephew/etc.‘s penis size, for example, so a name change will be mutually beneficial.

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