View Full Version : Question re: using examples in writing?

10-14-2005, 06:51 PM
Hello everyone! I haven't been around here much lately, but do peek in now & then and have read some very informative and interesting threads.

I've got several ideas for articles I want to pitch to various dog & equine mags. However, many of these mags like to have an "example" to illustrate your story. Such as Jane Doe and her dog Ruff have XYZ issue and how it was resolved. I've frequently used my own experiences, which works out great, but sometimes I want to use a bad experience and show how to fix -or prevent - a situation.

My question is, what if the example I wish to use the person wouldn't necessarily want to be linked with having done something incorrectly? Such as Jane Doe has created problems w/ her horse Neigh by doing XYZ, tips to avoiding XYZ...

Do I need to get Jane Doe's permission? Can I call Jane Doe "Dorothy" instead of Jane? Do I need to provide the editors with the actual name of the person? The incidents are real, but they are not ones that the people I would be using as examples would likely agree to have published - nor do they necessarily think that they have ever done XYZ.

Hope I was clear enough in my question w/ all the use of pseudonyms. haha Thanks in advance for any input anyone has to offer.


10-14-2005, 07:45 PM
Just change the name and any identifying details and put in one of those "names have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved" footnotes. On a side note - have you noticed whether the mags you're looking at have a strong preference for positive or negative examples (meaning, do they prefer "do it like this guy" articles over "don't do it like that guy" ones)?

10-15-2005, 01:10 AM
Thanks for the info, that had been my original thought. But the one query in particular I want to send, I wouldn't want the mag to contact that person, either, to verify sources... But technically, I suppose, she wouldn't be a source as she wouldn't be interviewed, just my expert will be.

Not so much as a "don't do it like this guy", more as in "XYZ situation happens frequently, then people wonder why my dog/horse responds like ABC, here are ten tips to do it differently and build a better relationship w/ your dog/horse/etc"

Not really a negative article, but a how-to article to get a better result. Explaining with an example what the negative end result can be from certain actions, with the focus on what to do to get better results type article.

Appreciate your reply.

10-15-2005, 01:30 AM
I think a better solution might be to leave out a personal reference altogether. Where you say "XYZ happens frequently, so do this," you could just as easily say "XYZ happened to a person I know." You're really using the person as an anecdotal source, not a factual one. If you're writing about something you have a certain degree of expertise in yourself (for example, if you have worked at a horse barn and are writing about horses), then a "someone I knew" can be good enough.

10-15-2005, 02:32 AM
It might also be helpful to check back issues so that you'll know more about how that publication approachs it. Some editors have a disdain for anecdotal sources or vague references; better to combine narrative with verifiable facts or expert experience that the reader will respect.

Regarding your specific question, can you find another source? Or perhaps another way to present his/her experience in a way that takes care of the concerns? One of the great things about writing is that you have almost unlimited options for how to present something.

I've gotten good response from sources who are happy to share their experiences -- lots of "We had this problem and here's how we fixed it," or, "We tried [this] and it didn't work, so we switched to [that] and had great results." As long as the story shows how they were proactive in solving a problem, most people will be happy to tell you their stories.

10-15-2005, 03:45 AM

I'm going to move this to the Writing About Animals forum. Those who frequent that forum are full of ideas and can give you excellent information and some hints how to handle this.

Good luck!

10-15-2005, 03:48 AM
Thanks, Jo!

10-15-2005, 03:52 AM
Not so much as a "don't do it like this guy", more as in "XYZ situation happens frequently, then people wonder why my dog/horse responds like ABC, here are ten tips to do it differently and build a better relationship w/ your dog/horse/etc"

That'll work. I've written several pieces along these lines myself.

10-17-2005, 09:31 PM
Thanks everyone! Have a great day.

10-20-2005, 10:06 PM
You're very welcome, Denise! Please visit often. :)