Writing About Real People? Consider this: They Don’t Always Love It
Recently a friend asked my husband if he thought we’d ever reconcile with one of our estranged siblings because, “She is a nice person. You’re nice people.” He wanted to know why I was still angry. This is a bit like saying to someone, “So I know Harry beat you mercilessly for 30 years but he’s a nice guy so can’t you just get over it?”
This man is a nice person. He meant well but he knows the sister, they are neighbors but not really close friends. Apparently he likes her and that’s his prerogative BUT, he had read my book, “Tales From the Family Crypt,” in which I detail the lifelong abuse and destruction this woman heaped on me, my husband, children and everyone in her family. No one reading this book who didn’t know her could conclude she was a nice person. But, he read the book with a preconceived notion of her. And, that is one of the problems in writing about real people.
Yes, I protected everyone’s identity and I also included a note at the beginning stating this was my story based on my memories and I was pretty sure the “characters” could perhaps present the story differently. Except I am truthful and they are not. 🙂 If you write about real people either in a nonfiction genre or even base a fictional character on someone you know, you may run into a situation where you ruffle feathers. Or worse, you could get sued. I researched my legal rights and knew I was protected legally but I did take the chance of pissing some people off by telling my story. However, you have a right to tell your story. I told mine for good reasons and, despite this man’s theory that I wrote the book out of anger and am still angry, that is not the case. I wrote the book because the story is fascinating and because way too many people suffer at the hands of their despicable, dysfunctional family members. Some folks allow those people and those heartbreaking situations to ruin their lives.
My husband and I did not. We worked hard to overcome and move past the heartbreak we suffered at these people’s hands. We had to forgive them in order to get past the anger and live happy lives. It can be done and we are living proof. I wrote the book to help other people who are similarly challenged.
But writing about real people isn’t easy. I don’t recommend it unless you feel strong enough to stand tall afterwards (not easy for me, I’m only 5 feet tall!) knowing you wrote for the right reasons and you told the truth. Do you write about real people? Any advice for others?