View Full Version : Famous / real people appearing in fiction

06-23-2011, 10:30 PM
How have you seen it handled? I've read books that revolve around sports feature real athletes, but I've never read anything in which a singer or actor appears (that I can remember).

I'm asking because my MC enters a contest to meet his favorite band. The meeting is short, with a few lines from the main singer and a performance from the entire band. Do you think I'm better off making up a band? The MC's fave band isn't author wish-fulfillment at all, it's more patriotic, I guess you could say? I'd RATHER have a real band, but if that sounds like a bad idea, I'd rather not, then, LOL.

In books characters talk about real actors or singers all the time, but I've personally never read anything where there's an appearance by the artist.

Thanks in advance for any opinions. :)

06-23-2011, 10:34 PM
So long as you don't say anything libellous you should be fine.

06-24-2011, 02:01 PM
Elvis appears in the Sookie Stackhouse novels as a Vampire (though the embrace was botched so he is mindless and therefore not really 'Elvis'.

Also, in the Morganville vampires series, several of the main vampire characters are famous historical figures but hidden under cryptic clues. For example, one character is only ever referred to as 'Oliver' and you find out later that his birth date and place exactly match those of Oliver Cromwell. Ada Lovelace, Babbage's assistant, also puts in an appearance.

If I were you I would look into Ben Elton's book, High Society, which uses a lot of celebrities. Most of the MC celebrities are original creations based on real ones (for example, Tommy Hanson in High Society is a pop star with influences from Liam Gallagher and Robbie Williams) but real ones do put in appearances (for example Robbie Williams sends Tommy Hanson a message at one point and Liam and Noel Gallagher are mentioned as is Elton John). If you read that book you may find some ideas about how to handle it yourself.

06-24-2011, 03:16 PM
It's slightly different with dead people, since it's more difficult for them to sue. ;)

06-24-2011, 03:34 PM
I had Gordon Lightfoot appear as a minor character in one of my novels. I contacted his manager and him and Mr. Lightfoot gave me the okay to put words in his mouth. (-: I'm sure the author is not expected to do this...but I'm an i dotter and a t crosser. I wanted to be sure...because it being my last chapter, I thought his presence was pivotal.

06-24-2011, 03:49 PM
Off the top of my head, Jack Nicholson appears in James Herbert's Creed.

It's been done. Just be careful with it.

06-24-2011, 08:27 PM
Thanks so much for the responses! After reading them, I remembered I've read books in which dead celebrities appear (or authors and atheletes and the like), so now I think I'll check out High Society. Thanks for the suggestion! That sounds like exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

06-24-2011, 08:34 PM
I just read a book that mentioned Hugh Grant, Hugh Jackman, and George Clooney. It can be done as long as you are not speaking negatively about the person.

06-24-2011, 09:47 PM
It can be done as long as you are not speaking negatively about the person.
You ought to be alright speaking negatively about them. The real problems come when you're speaking libellously about them.
In other words, bad stuff that's not true is a lot worse than bad stuff that is true.

ETA: I am not a lawyer (I really hate the abbreviation for that).

06-24-2011, 10:25 PM
Springsteen was in my last book, but he didn't talk. Just played a show. I mentioned a couple of other people by name, but they were generally just single comments.

Becky Black
06-24-2011, 10:42 PM
There are a couple of things to beware of while doing this.

Some readers won't have heard of the band at all, so you might as well have made them up on that case.
Some readers might hate that band and think your character is an idiot for wanting to meet them.
Unless they're some band who've been around for years then by the time your book is published that band might be soooo last year it's embarrassing. (In other words, they might date the book instantly.)
The day after your book comes out one of the band is arrested for some horrible crime they've committed. (Okay, not as likely, but it could happen when using real living people.)