View Full Version : Would you risk possible Libel? Does this even qualify?

02-20-2012, 02:37 AM
It's not that I would ever want to be in a position where I would need to make somebody look bad in a novel. However, I did write a book about my life, where .. things didn't go so well. That being said, I changed, locations, names, dates and events around including age, to alter the perception of my life to the reader. And I did not tell one lie about the nature of the things that happened, if he is in a bad light, is that really considered libel if it is true but unproven? I never said, "he was an ugly bastard, who was more rotten than a sack of two month old tomatoes." (is this even libel?? lol) I did say, He did this and this.
However the context of the book the MC would know it was about him, because he like me, knows the truth. My name on it alone, would be a dead give away. Not that he would ever come foward and say "this is all about me!" I am just wondering if the possibility would be too much for an agent to take on?

Richard Falk
02-20-2012, 02:41 AM
To be libellous, a statement must:

1) Refer to a person who is clearly identifiable (not to the person concerned, but to at least one stranger)
2) Be likely to reduce that person's standing or "cause him to be shunned"
3) Not be capable of being proved true to a court's satisfaction

Should a statement be perceived as libellous and result in a defamation suit, the onus is on the defendant to prove that the statement was not libel, rather than the other way around.

Siri Kirpal
02-20-2012, 02:59 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I don't think you need to worry if you've stuck to the facts and changed names. But do consider if the person is the sort who hangs out with trigger-happy lawyers. If so, it might be a risk. If not, you probably don't need to worry about it.


Siri Kirpal

Drachen Jager
02-20-2012, 03:03 AM
If it's the truth it's not Libel.

02-20-2012, 03:37 AM
Being a two-month old sack of tomatoes, does that not qualify him to be good fertilizer at least?

02-20-2012, 04:01 AM
Being true doesn't mean a person represented in a negative light can't or won't sue you over that truth if it's published. People can and have (both successfully and not) done just that.

However, as memoir is ALWAYS a tough sell if you aren't already a celebrity or someone with an existing platform, it's not likely something you need to worry about.

02-20-2012, 06:53 AM
I always appreciated Anne Lamott's advice in Bird by Bird on this issue. She said, in effect, change the details dramatically, alter everything that would point specifically to the person, including the details of the relationship to you. Finally she said, "If you disguise this person carefully so that he cannot be recognized by the physical or professional facts of his life, you can use him in your work.... [and] give him a teenie little penis so he will be less likely to come forth."
Ah the power of the written word. [But I always wondered what the feminine equivalent would be . . . ]