Memoir Writing: Legal Issues You Need to Know

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Things we all do in memoir writing, change names.

How to Write Memoir: Legal Terms, Definitions and Examples

Understating legal terms and definitions can be tricky, which is why we’ve put it together in an easy-to-follow download with simple examples from famous memoirs. Here’s an example of what you’ll get in this FREE download:


  • Defamation is when you injure a person’s reputation; in legal speak, it’s when you “lower them in the estimation of the community or deter third persons from dealing with them.” It’s a false statement of fact. Only living people can sue for defamation; heirs cannot make a claim about a deceased relative’s reputation.
  • The allegedly defamed person must prove that he is identifiable to readers by the setting, physical description or other factors. Changing someone’s name and physical description is a good start, but it isn’t necessarily enough to prevent a lawsuit. Truth, however, is always a defense to a defamation charge. As long as you can prove your ex cheated on his taxes, he cannot sustain a defamation claim.
  • What if you don’t have proof? A defamation claim can be based only on something stated as fact—so, the good news is that your opinions are protected expression. That said, don’t think simply couching your accusation as opinion—“It’s my opinion that John Jones deals drugs,” or, “I believe Sara Smith embezzles from her employer”—is an easy out. Any such opinions need to be clearly relevant to your story, and should be supported with viable evidence or reasoning.

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Whether you’re writing memoir in full-length manuscript form or learning how to write a memoir essay, download this free guide and reference it regularly to make sure you are staying true to your story while also avoiding a potential lawsuit. By understanding defamation, invasion of privacy, conflicting memories, depicting criminal acts and more, you’ll be in better shape to craft that memoir you’ve always wanted to write without the stress of needing a lawyer.