So, I want to write a fiction story and I want to draw heavy influences from my large extended family like aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. My family has an interesting story of how they fled communism to come to the US and I would love to incorporate the many different personalities that my aunts and uncles have as well as their different stories of how they fled the country. My question is could they(uncles and aunts) or their kids(my cousins) ever sue me for using their names or stories? Or would I be better off creating different names and just using their stories instead? I'm not saying this because there is bad blood in between any of us, quite the contrary, but I do know that money can change people sometimes.(Im not saying Im going to make any money off the book, I'm just interested theoretically at what could happen should something ever happen)

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    Ask them. That's just basic courtesy.
    – user16226
    Apr 2, 2017 at 19:06
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    Right, I definitely will ask my uncles and aunts. I don't think any of them will object to it, but can my cousins ever do something about it if they say "I slandered their parents names"?
    – RaulT
    Apr 2, 2017 at 19:16
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    If you defame someone in print, you can be sued for libel. (Slander is when you do it in speech.) Relationships make no difference to who can sue.
    – user16226
    Apr 2, 2017 at 19:40

1 Answer 1


I answered a similar question here.

It should be perfectly fine to use a real life point, as long as there are no legal issues with regards to it. As long as you're not attempting to damage the people involved's reputations or defaming their names - there should be no trouble.

However, if you want to be 100% sure, make sure to ask the people involved if it is okay. It is sometimes surprising how many people love the idea of someone writing a book or making some documentary about them!

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