There are many ways to ask people permission. That is, if you’re going to. As previously stated in another post from June of 2016, The People You Know, which you should read if you haven’t already, some don’t. Again, personal preference is abundant here. What follows are just a few that I’ve used, heard others use, and/or thought of as a possibility.
- The Sit Down
- With this one, it’s not necessary to show the person the work, and this can be done prior to conceptualizing whatever you’re about to create. This involves close, personal contact. You’ll have to be in the same room as the person you’re writing or using as your muse. I recommend doing this as a one-on-one type meeting. Invite them in and/or over to two chairs preferably across from each other with a table between the two of you, but you can also sit side-by-side. It all depends on whether or not you want to turn your body or have some space just in case things go awry. Then ask them if it’s ok to write about them. I recommend direct eye contact in this scenario, as you sit across from them, because shifty eyes can give them the feeling that something is amiss, which it might be depending on what you’re going to do with them in your piece. Keep in mind, a lack of steady eyes and confidence will be your undoing.
- The Stand Up
- This is exactly the same as the Sit Down except that you, well, stand up. The only benefit that I can think of is that it’s noticeably more awkward and the person you’re talking to might come to an answer or a yes faster just so they can get away from the situation. Also probably works more effectively on and for impatient people.
- The Phone Call
- Seriously, if you don’t get what to do here, then I don’t know what to tell you. Call the person up and ask them if it’s cool. Don’t actually say, “Is it cool,” though. Explain what you’re doing and what you need from them, which is permission.
- Pros: Zero body language to be read and mistranslated. You can do this anywhere you can use a phone.
- Cons: Can be interpreted as impersonal. It might be impersonal, but probably not as bad as the next.
- The Text
- Again, similar to The Phone Call, except in this version, you send a text message as the request as opposed to verbal dialogue. Similar pros and cons too.
- The Email
- You can make this seem professional with a To Whom It May Concern, or give it a more personal Dear; or just put the person’s name for a more nonchalant feel. Similar to the text, but usually more structured, The Email is a quick and easy way to ask. Unfortunately, you’ll need internet access, but this isn’t the 1990s so you should be fine.
- The Pass Off or Handover
- It sounds weird, but it’s simple. You create the piece, right? Once you’re done, you approach the person the piece is about, you pass off a copy to them, and then you say, “Is this all right?” If they say, “Yes,” good for you, and if they say, “No,” then you don’t have permission. If you fail on obtaining permission in this manner you can go with the other options, redo whatever you made and try this again later, or you can choose to go through with it anyway and risk the relationship. You know, whichever is easier for you, I guess.
- The Tell
- Not like in poker, The Tell isn’t really about getting permission. It’s more about letting them know what you’re up to. It’s for the person who doesn’t care all that much, but doesn’t want to seem like a complete asshole. It’s rather straightforward, anyway you want to do it, let the subject know what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter if they say yes or no or act confused, them knowing counts as permission.
- The Waiver
- What do you want me to say? Write up a waiver and get them to read it and then sign and date it. I’ve never heard of anyone who isn’t a lawyer doing this, but you’re welcome to give it a try. It will certainly, possibly remove virtually all risk from any potential, future legal trouble this may present.
- The Contract
- This is similar to The Waiver, except with The Contract the two of you discuss what can and cannot be used as material. You come to some sort of mutual agreement, and then you can sign a sheet with each other’s stipulations or just verbally agree on the matter. This may be the best for the person who is being used for your art, but may be the most harmful for it too.
- The Surrogate
- All you have to do for this one is get someone else to do it for you, hence the name of this strategy. I recommend getting someone to do this that the person you’re creating about likes and/or trusts, preferably more than you. This is especially useful for the person that you don’t know that well or who doesn’t like you. The problem with this is that you risk completely ruining your relationship with the person you’re creating about and possibly the relationship that person has with your surrogate.
All of these are real scenarios albeit more on the tongue-in-cheek side. In all seriousness, it can be a nice step in a relationship to talk to other people about the possibility of using them in your writing or any creative endeavor. People tend to appreciate it if you do, but, as I’ve said repeatedly, you don’t have to. How you handle or don’t handle the situation is entirely up to you. I hope that your creating goes well, and that you don’t lose anyone in the process. Although, that’s the way it goes sometime. I’ll attempt to touch upon that later in another piece.