Help Please! Writing non fiction, do you name the names?

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Andrew Marsh

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Sep 16, 2018
Glasgow, Scotland
Hi all,
I am planning an autobiographical book about my diagnosis at 51 with Asperger's Syndrome. I am going to tell my story of being different, the bullying and incidents that occurred throughout my life, what I have learnt that can help me in times of crisis or meltdown and other coping strategies that may help others in a similar position.
My question is, do I name the people who were bullies etc or do I have to change their names and/or just call them boy/man 1, 2 3 etc.
I appreciate any help you can give.
 
If it were me I'd be very careful about naming real individuals explicitly, especially if it shows them in a bad light. Lawyers and courts make lots of money out of slander and libel cases (whether it is true or not).
A better approach (and one adopted by numerous authors in their memoirs) is to use false names and say at the beginning that "names have been changed to protect the individuals concerned". You would do well to also be wary of the individuals being "identifiable" by the actions or characteristics you give them.
 
Hi Paul, thanks for the reply and info.
it will be difficult territory because some of the people in my past have been less than completely nice to me, so while I want to share my story, I have to be careful. But certain types of abuse are certain types of abuse which ever way you try to dress it up.
 
I'd use false names. I'd also be careful to not include any information that can make a person identifiable to readers (a tricky thing, but it has been done).

For those who you want to use real names for (I'm thinking of those who have supported you), you could ask for their permission. It does mean they'll need to read your story it before it goes out and they may ask you to remove certain things if they don't like how they are portrayed. That said, if they are portrayed in a positive light, I wouldn't be too concerned.
 
Thanks Paul, I appreciate the link.
The problem is that in order to tell a life story about abuse, one has to name names. Even for me to "change the names" to protect others is watering down my story, but it seems that I have no choice. I have no idea of the life path of the "guilty" and do not wish to find out. I hope karma catches up with them somewhere down the line.
I have a lot of thinking to do about this and it may have to wait for life events to happen.
 
Change the names. And 'Own Voice'stories is a huge thing right now, but at the same time there doesn't seem to be much appetite right now for anything that might read as a misery memoir.
 
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