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amlptj
03-31-2012, 07:45 AM
I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, if now please Mod's move this.

I'm wondering if I can get sued for what I'm currently writing. I've been getting mixed advice and was wondering if there are lawyers here that could settle my worries.

My book that I'm writing Unsung Zeros, is a fiction books, with some fictional retelling of events that have actually happened in my past. I'm hoping to self-publish this book, under a pen name. I've also changed all descriptions, and names of any real life people.

I'll explain farther. You see I have two MC's. Sam and Alex, Alex's flashbacks about her bullying episodes in grade school are based on things that have happened to me (I say based because I've compressed and changed some actual events, so things that happened over years happened in single events and such) and the characters i used are based on real people, but again I've changed names and as these character grow up there lives and personalities become completely fictional.

For example. The twins that actually ruined my life, in real life as of now (getting my info from Facebook) they are married with children, in the book they are in college and party animals, and since I've not seen are talked to them since i was in 8th grade, I've completely made up there personalities.

I've changed the town this all happens in, and unless they read it which i doubt any of them will, I'm pretty sure they still wouldn't figure out it was about them even if they did.

I've gotten mixed reactions and answers about all of this, half saying don't worry about it for a number of reasons, others saying, don't bother continuing. So thank you for any info you can give me.

Haggis
03-31-2012, 08:15 AM
Hi, Ally.

I'm not sure if this is the right place either and I'm checking into it. But I'm pretty certain you're not going to get free legal advice here. It wouldn't be appropriate for a lawyer to respond with such limited information. And, after all, they do normally charge for their services, just like everybody else.

I honestly think your best bet is to contact an attorney in your town and see what he or she says. If money's an issue, maybe they can refer you to legal aid. But I don't think it's ever a good idea to solicit professional advice, be it medical or legal, on the Internet.

meowzbark
03-31-2012, 10:32 AM
I'm not a lawyer, but here's some advice.

The following is taken directly from a random paperback book on my shelf and is found on the copyright page: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. A similar disclaimer is used for films and is at the very end of the credits.

The disclaimed tells the reader that nothing in the book is true, which theoretically protects you for being sued for the context in the book. Also, it helps if you have details pertaining to these characters that blatantly don't match the real life people, so in essence you're capturing the story behind the event rather than documenting what actually happened.

amlptj
03-31-2012, 12:38 PM
I'm sorry, i didn't realize asking this question would be a problem, please delete it if you feel it is inappropriate.

lolchemist
03-31-2012, 01:59 PM
Just my 2 cents but I don't think anyone's going to be crawling out of the wood works to go "HEY! I'M THE BULLY IN THAT FICTIONAL BOOK!" but then again, stranger things HAVE happened! (That 'Rah and the Muggles' lady suing JK Rowlings comes to mind!)

Orchestra
03-31-2012, 04:14 PM
Small penis rule (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_penis_rule) might be applicable.

Note: I am a not lawyer and this is not legal advice.

kkbe
03-31-2012, 04:59 PM
We all do it. Consider this:

You’re sitting there, and you got nothin’, zero, diddly-squat—
Then, suddenly, if you’re lucky, something will “click”: You’ll remember something that happened to you recently, or maybe you knew somebody who said something along those same lines, or you recall something similar that happened to you when you were a kid, or there’s that thing that guy said that one time, or maybe there’s just something in you that your character needs; no, demands—
The next thing you know, you’re plucking a memory to put in there; or maybe it’s a little part of yourself you’re plucking (no, you’d be tearing off chunks by then, ha ha!); anyway, you dump all that happy s**t right into your story and you mix it up in there real good; and if you’re a talented writer—and by that, I mean really talented (like me, right!)—no-one will ever suspect the truth about you, which is:

You cheated, sure as s**t.

They’ll just think you’re a brilliant writer because you “made the whole thing up.” Yeah, right; you made the whole thing up; you pulled every last detail right out of the thin f**king air like you were Harry Houdini or somebody.

Sure you did.

We all do it. You just have to reconstitute it, right? Make it your own. Good luck.

n3onkn1ght
03-31-2012, 06:51 PM
All fiction is plagiarized from real life.

Every single word of it that has ever been written.

Even fantasy draws heavily from past cultures and magical practices, and science fiction draws heavily from our current understanding of science, and both are rooted in the human condition as it exists at the present, as well as the limitations of the human mind to conceive of reality.
No matter how fantastic or original an author is, their writing is still the sum product of their life.

Using fiction to mock your enemies is a technique that goes all the way back to ancient Greek drama, and it's a perfectly acceptable weapon to employ as long as you try not to make it seem like blatant wish fulfillment/power fantasy. Countless, countless characters in modern fiction are based on people the author knew and met, and in fact, there's a whole genre, Roman a Clef novels, that are nothing but real life with the serial numbers filed off.

Writing isn't about playing it "safe" -- it's about telling the truth. And if telling the truth means you've got to stick in characters based on the assholes who wronged you, then go and do so.

Gordon
03-31-2012, 07:15 PM
Also, unless you've named them, and the school and year where the bullying occurred, and you've described them to a tee, I don't believe that a recount of two bullies in eight grade and their subsequent bullying, are particularly rare events. Almost everyone - particularly around 13-15 years old - was a victim or perpetrator of bullying. Making it up is as easy as recounting the truth.

Not a lawyer, but I think you're safe.

Libbie
03-31-2012, 07:35 PM
There have been cases where authors have loosely based characters and situations on real people, those people found the depiction to be distasteful, sued, and won.

However, you're talking about a self-published book. It has little chance of going anywhere or getting many readers at all. I'm not telling you that to be a huge Debbie Downer -- I'm just being realistic. Particularly if you do not edit (your post is full of errors that would make reading a novel with similar errors unbearable), your book is unlikely to gain the attention of the people you used to build your characters unless you specifically point it out to them.

I'm not hating on self-publishing: I self-published one of my own books. I'm just telling it like it is, because there is always a lot of false hope involved in self-publishing. Your book is not likely to go anywhere, and if it doesn't ever become even a slight success, your chances of being sued are very slim.

But yes, it has happened before. People can and do win lawsuits over this very issue.

Swordfish
03-31-2012, 08:04 PM
I was worried about this same issue and did a lot of online research on it recently. I'm no lawyer, but from what I've been reading, your descriptions of these people would have to be spot on for it to be libel.

On one of the cases where someone sued (and won), the author pretty much only changed the name but kept every detail about the person the same. For example, the person in question was the 4th child out of 10 (and he really was in real life). He was born in (insert random small town here) and the person in real life was too. The character had worked in X, Y, and Z companies (which the person really had).

From what you've written, it doesn't seem like you've done this.

HoneyBadger
03-31-2012, 08:12 PM
Here's how Augusten Borroughs dealt with the issue. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusten_Burroughs#Controversy)

Phaeal
03-31-2012, 10:43 PM
I always pass on Anne Lamott's advice: If you're basing a character on your ex-boyfriend, give the character a tiny penis. Ex is not likely to claim to be this character.

I suppose flat breasts might work for females, though this is not as sure a thing as that tiny penis.

dangerousbill
03-31-2012, 10:49 PM
For example. The twins that actually ruined my life, in real life as of now (getting my info from Facebook) they are married with children, in the book they are in college and party animals, and since I've not seen are talked to them since i was in 8th grade, I've completely made up there personalities.


The test is that a reasonable person who knows the real-life prototypes wouldn't recognize them in your story. Publishing under a pen name will help.

You have to be careful not to hand another victory over to your tormentors, by making it easy for them to take you to court, or threaten to, or renew their campaign.

Sometimes just writing the story is sufficient therapy.

shadowwalker
03-31-2012, 11:04 PM
Talk to a lawyer. Many times the first consult is free. Or contact the local legal aide society or bar association to find one who will answer simple questions free/cheap. Do not go into this based on any advice from anyone other than an attorney. No disrespect, but they are only guessing and their guess is as good as yours.

job
03-31-2012, 11:26 PM
Can any of the characters recognize themselves from the descriptions?
Can they recognize themselves when somebody reveals that you wrote a book based on your life experiences?

If the answer to both of these is 'no', you're safe.

meowzbark
03-31-2012, 11:40 PM
Talk to a lawyer. Many times the first consult is free. Or contact the local legal aide society or bar association to find one who will answer simple questions free/cheap. Do not go into this based on any advice from anyone other than an attorney. No disrespect, but they are only guessing and their guess is as good as yours.

Best advice on the thread. Only a lawyer will give you piece of mind.

amlptj
04-04-2012, 07:08 AM
Thanks for the advice everyone.

I'm actually going to talk to my aunt who is a secretary in a law office to see if she has any connections to people i could talk to.

Debeucci
04-04-2012, 07:59 AM
If you use different names, different places you are fine. And yes I asked a lawyer. She laughed. She said it's not even close.

Billtrumpet25
04-04-2012, 09:29 AM
I'm not a lawyer, but here's some advice.

The following is taken directly from a random paperback book on my shelf and is found on the copyright page: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. A similar disclaimer is used for films and is at the very end of the credits.

The disclaimed tells the reader that nothing in the book is true, which theoretically protects you for being sued for the context in the book. Also, it helps if you have details pertaining to these characters that blatantly don't match the real life people, so in essence you're capturing the story behind the event rather than documenting what actually happened.

Precisely. I don't think there is much to worry about.

kiwiviktor81
04-04-2012, 10:00 AM
If you get sued by them and you win, then you could also get a lot of free publicity for the book. Something to think about.

blacbird
04-04-2012, 12:13 PM
I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, if now please Mod's move this.
. . .
My book that I'm writing Unsung Zeros, is a fiction books, with some fictional retelling of events that have actually happened in my past. I'm hoping to self-publish this book,
. . .
I'll explain farther. You see I have two MC's. Sam and Alex, Alex's flashbacks about her bullying episodes in grade school are based on things that have happened to me (I say based because I've compressed and changed some actual events, so things that happened over years happened in single events and such) and the characters i used are based on real people, but again I've changed names and as these character grow up there lives and personalities become completely fictional.

For example. The twins that actually ruined my life, in real life as of now (getting my info from Facebook) they are married with children, in the book they are in college and party animals, and since I've not seen are talked to them since i was in 8th grade, I've completely made up there personalities.


Yup. You should worry. But not for any legal reasons. If your writing here is any example of your writing in the book, you have simpler things to worry about.

caw

amlptj
04-04-2012, 12:39 PM
Normally i don't reply to comments like this, but its the second potentially third one.

Just for everyone's information, I have several severe learning disorders. It greatly hinders me in the areas of spelling and grammar and reading in general. I do the best i can with special computer software but they don't catch everything. I'm also doing the best I can to make as much money while enrolled full time in college to save up for an editor, which has been a constant battle I've been fighting to do for the last 10 years I've been writing.

Sorry again if there are errors in this post too I usually don't run simple posts though my computer program.

Debeucci
04-04-2012, 12:59 PM
Hey amlptj, no need to apologize. And Blacbird, no need to be harsh.

amlptj, just keep at it. You'll get there one day. Writing is a very long process and even seasoned authors often have bad grammar. My grammar is pretty substandard, but that's what multiple edits, betareaders, and copyediting (once your book is sold) can help address. Remember, grammar can be fixed, storytelling can't.

Also, I would highly recommend you do not pay for an editor. It's not worth it. Edit yourself, or ask friends to help you.

amlptj
04-04-2012, 01:15 PM
Thank you.

Right now I have an amazing friend who offered to edit my first book for free and I couldn't thank her enough. I'm hoping to save up enough money to go back to her and thank her for this and pay her for the one i'm writing now. For i cant edit my own or any work.

ccarver30
04-04-2012, 08:13 PM
Best advice on the thread. Only a lawyer will give you piece of mind.

Peace of mind too. ;)

I agree (I'm not a lawyer!) that you are probably safe. Being bullied is a generic thing and I bet a LOT of bullies share the same qualities...