Naming Characters

Question: I am writing a book detailing a very personal family tragedy. In writing the book, I am using real names, but I do not want to use the real names when/if the book is published. What do I do, then, to continue writing and then to "market" the book when completely finished? I know this must seem like "cart before the horse," but for some reasons, I am stuck on this and cannot seem to make headway until I resolve this conflict. Many thanks for any ideas you may have.


Answer: I suppose the first issue that comes to mind is whether your family or its tragedy are famous. If so - and I'm sorry if this sounds callous - but that would be a major selling point for the book, which a publisher would want to know. It's easier to sell a book about a famous family/incident.

If that's not the case and you simply want to share your family's story - perhaps because it can help people facing similar tragedies - then you can change the names. You might need to think about what you will do regarding publicity. For instance, if you are interviewed, do you admit it's your family or claim it is a family you met? Bear in mind, a good journalist can ferret out the truth.

On the other hand, maybe you just want to write a novel based on your family's tragedy? In that case, I would suggest you change more than just the names. Make enough changes that only someone who knows your family well would realize you were inspired by real events. That's the only way to ensure your family's privacy.

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