Literary Law – When truth may not set you free

Author Terry Tempest Williams tell us “I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine.” In my opinion, every personal essay is an experiment taken on by the writer to try and make sense of some sort of idea or event that they feel strongly about. But there is surely a debate about the amount of fiction that should be allowed in a nonfiction piece. So, is what a person imagines fact or fiction? And what does that mean when they go to publish it?

Every writer, no matter the genre, dreams of the day that they will be published. But rules are different for those writing about the truth, especially when the truth involves a sensitive subject such as sexual abuse. If published, the writer could be involved in a defamation lawsuit if the perpetrator can be easily identified and hurts their reputation. Because of this, sometimes authors are urged to change some vital information so that they will be protected. So, my question is, is this fact or fiction? What does changing the information mean when it is a work of creative nonfiction? Is the author protecting themselves or hurting their truth?

Take a look at a conversation about literary law here, and decide for yourselves.

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