acm323's picture
acm323 from California June 7, 2018 - 2:27am

I'm thinking about writing a non-fiction book.  I've only published one book and that was a work of fiction.

I don't really know the "rules".

Would it be okay if I contacted people on the internet (through message boards or email) and asked them for their stories?  I want to write about psychiatric hospitals.

I already know I'm not going to publish any real names or any of the hospitals.  I'll probably have them sign a waiver too so they understand exactly what I'm doing.

This is probably a dumb question.  But is it okay to use the internet and not meet anyone in person?  I suppose someone could lie about working in the field, but if I'm not paying that person it would be unlikely.

What do you guys think?

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal June 7, 2018 - 7:22pm

Ehhh, you'd be amazed how much some people like to lie just for the sake of it. Or attention or who knows what. Just saying.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman June 9, 2018 - 2:55pm

I guess it depends. If the non-fiction is very research-oriented, it's a good idea to vet your sources somehow. You don't necessarily need to vet everything that comes out of their mouths, and because of some laws related to medicine, it would probably be impossible. I don't think you necessarily need to meet them, but finding a way to have them demonstrate they worked in the field seems like the due diligence that would allow you to trust their stories. 

A couple suggestions:

-Do a large-ish number of interviews. That'll help you identify what sounds like nonsense right off. 

-After interviewing initially, follow up with the subjects at a later date and ask some further questions once you know a little more what you're looking for. Ask them some clarifying questions that are really your way of making sure their story is consistent. 

-If you're looking to get pretty serious, I think it would be fine to ask for something that proves what they're saying, like a pay stub with their name and the name of the facility where they worked. BUT, I'd ask for this later on, once you've established whose interviews you really want to use. That way you don't waste time vetting people you're not really using anyway. 

-If you can, try and find an ally who is an expert in the field to help you vet your subjects. Someone who knows a ton about it already will have a much easier time seeing the nonsense and asking the right questions (sort of like how a cop can tell you right off what's crap in cop shows).