- Disguise characters. Changing physical descriptions isn’t enough if the person’s identity it still blatantly obvious to everyone in the community. Show, don’t tell.
- Use parody and satire. No one ever sued Saturday Night Live, and have you seen what’s on the internet? They even use real names. Insult is not legal grounds for a lawsuit.
- Get signed releases. This includes business owners if their companies feature prominently in your story. This is surprisingly easy as most people are thrilled to be in a book. I had several elderly church-going relatives vigorously campaign to have me use their name for a dead prostitute. Auntie Loretta won.
- If you’re writing a memoir or autobiography don’t forget people remember things differently. A few kind words at the beginning of a book about how this is your impression of events might do a lot to assuage hurt feelings and keep legal trouble at bay.
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