When “Your Story” Shames Others

Writing a book is not just about sharing 7 Habits, 10 Principles, or tips on How to
Although these types of books are great for business, many of my clients choose to write books that bear their soul, share their personal story, and, oftentimes, include intimate details and events from their life.
Indeed, sharing your story through writing a book can be a powerful and transformational process…
But what if your story is not 100% your own?
What if your story includes your parents, other family members or siblings, co-workers, industry colleagues, spouses or romantic partners (ex – or current)? In this case, you can enter “shame” territory and reveal something that can impact their life. With this, you want to tread carefully.
There have been several cases from clients who had to consider how their book would impact others.

  • A young man who stopped writing his book because he did not want to publicly share that his mom was a prostitute.
  • The Bestseller in a Weekend® student who wrote about his plans to shoot up his high school, but found Jesus days before, and aborted the impending act. In this case, the author used the book writing process as a way to create a vulnerable conversation between himself and his parents.
  • The perspective client who decided she could not move forward because she couldn’t bear her parents knowing about her past drug use. She felt it was unfair to embarrass them in their final years.
  • The Book Funnel™ client, Dr. Sheila Loanzon who wrote her book “Yes, I Have Herpes: A Gynecologist’s Perspective From In And Out of the Stirrups,” as a way to share her story with her patients and community. Before she launched her book, which has been featured in Cosmopolitan and on CNN, she created a beautiful opening with her family so they would know before the media publicity.

In all of these cases, the author is considering the feelings of their family members, and is taking 100% responsibility.
Legally, you can share your story from your perspective, but you cannot present the story in a way that hurts others’ ability to make a living or is slanderous. Here are a few tips on how to write a book without shaming family, friends, or individuals from your life you’ve had conflict with:

  1. Partner From The Start. Make sure to have conversations with your family and anyone mentioned in your book in case the content is intimate or controversial. Remember you are not asking for permission, you are notifying them of your decision to write a book, and taking 100% responsibility to ensure they understand before you publish the book. If they have objections, look at ways to present how it might be interesting to involve them with quotes, for example, as a way for them to participate.
  2. Find The Work-Around. Someone may not initially want their story told, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write it from your own 1st person perspective or introduce sources with other friends, contacts, and professional colleagues. Play the investigative journalist. Memory is also a bit of a tricky, subjective tool, it may help you to get material from other perspectives. Doing the extra work could make a huge difference with structuring the final product and developing your thinking to get there.
  3. Write A Book To Heal. You may choose to write the book as a way to work through your trauma in a loving way while your parents are still alive but not to put it “out into the world” until after they pass. This way it may provide some insight for you that you need for proper closure with your parents before they actually pass.
  4. Fictionalize. You can always fictionalize parts of your book to protect identities (in the case of this article, I fictionalized some of the bullets above to protect their interest), just ensure you notify your prospective reader by listing in the disclaimer that name and circumstances have been changed to protect identities.

Being honest and straight forward from the start can create a powerful transformation for you as you dive deep into the material of your life, as well as create opportunities to connect with family and friends to have open, honest conversations. It’s a process of giving shape to our thoughts, memories, and feelings. It can be useful to find insight from the outside as much as within.

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