Sit down and strap on in, dear reader, because this is gonna be a juicy one.
I’ve seen people on the interweb ask how to deal with writing about people they know—friends, family, even just people they’ve known in the past. And I don’t think that there is a one size fits all answer to this. I know this is the worst answer to get when you ask a question, but the answer is...it really depends.
What does it depend on?
It depends on your relationship with the person you’re writing about — how important are they to you? Do you have a good relationship with them? Will what you’re writing ruin that relationship?
It depends on how that person generally reacts to what you’re writing about them. If they have thick skin, you can always ask if they will read what you wrote and get their approval. But there’s also that age old adage: It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. That is to say that if you let them read your writing before you publish, they might want you to change it in a way that might not be a good call for your story, voice, writing style — you get the idea here.
It also depends on how important including this information about this person is to your story. If it’s not that important and you know it’s going to be a bridge burner, consider throwing it out. If it’s extremely important to the message you want to convey and the story you’re telling...well, in my opinion, that’s worth leaving in there.
Keep in mind that my personality is one that bares all. I really am an open book when it comes to what I write about my life and the people in it. And I’m not afraid to burn bridges, or ask for forgiveness later. I believe that the facts are the facts, the way you interpret them has the right to be heard, and no one should take that personally. But I know some people out there think that makes me a mean person. Thing is, I’m okay with some people thinking that.
There’s no hard and fast answer for what you should or shouldn’t disclose about others in your writing. It’s a gray area we all have to learn how to navigate, and figure out what works for us, individually.