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View Full Version : Using 'living people' as inspiration.



mum23
06-24-2007, 01:20 PM
I have based my characters on actual people. If I was lucky enough to be published ( dream lol) and a certain person read my book and knew it was about them, eventhough the names have been changed, is there anything they can do?

Plot Device
06-24-2007, 04:11 PM
I think they can sue.

Seriosly.

I also believe that one of the things your publisher willl ask you prior to accepting your manuscript is whether or not any of the characters are based upon real people. And if the answer is yes (and you'd better not lie) they have to do some damage control before they can proceed. They'll either have you rewrite things to obscure the similarity, or else they'll ask you to get signed waivers of some kind from the persons you have lifted from (they'll provide the waivers, you have to go and hunt them down and get them to sign). And if these people want to, they can refuse to sign, or else hold out for cash.

Good luck.

mum23
06-24-2007, 04:15 PM
So how do I go about writing a novel on experiences of step mother/ 2nd wife without using real people? Of course my characters are based on real people, names changed obviously.

Do I return to the non fiction and instead of using a character, use 'I' etc?

Plot Device
06-24-2007, 04:33 PM
Not sure. But I'm certain that others here would have more insight than me.

Sassee
06-24-2007, 04:51 PM
Most of my female characters are based on real people. There are a few that know it and are okay with it, and then there are some that don't know. The ones that don't know were some of my dorm mates in college, and I doubt they would make the connection since they were very minor characters with somewhat generalized personalities.

mum23
06-24-2007, 06:37 PM
Thanks Plot and sassee.

My problem is that if I was fortunate to become published, and used my name as author, then I'm sure the people I had written about would most definatly know who they were. I just feel this is something I really want to do because it is not necessarily about them, but me and how I have been affected by the situation. The only thing I can think of is to say that the events are based on my personal experiences I have just changed names to conceal identities etc.

lkp
06-24-2007, 09:35 PM
If you're writing about your experiences as a step-mum, even if you are changing all the names, everyone who knows you is going to believe they are the people in your book (or they know the people in your book). I don't know if they can sue you or not, but in some ways, that's the smallest issue. Heck, they'd think it was about them even if you were totally changing events and situations. Having a line at the front saying you're changing names to protect identities, isn't going to protect their identities with anyone who knows you or your situation.

Jamesaritchie
06-24-2007, 09:38 PM
I think they can sue.

Seriosly.

I also believe that one of the things your publisher willl ask you prior to accepting your manuscript is whether or not any of the characters are based upon real people. And if the answer is yes (and you'd better not lie) they have to do some damage control before they can proceed. They'll either have you rewrite things to obscure the similarity, or else they'll ask you to get signed waivers of some kind from the persons you have lifted from (they'll provide the waivers, you have to go and hunt them down and get them to sign). And if these people want to, they can refuse to sign, or else hold out for cash.

Good luck.

No publisher has ever asked me whether a character was based on a real person, and as an editor, I would never, ever ask a writer this. People are not asked to sign waivers, no publisher would ever do this, and certainly no publisher would ever pay a dime.

1. Most good writers do base characters on real people, even when they think they don't.

2. As an editor, I assume many characters ARE based on real people. That's why I make sure the front of the book has that escape clause that reads This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to characters living or dead is purely coincidental.

3. If writers couldn't base characters on real people, the roman a clef, a very popular novel form, couldn't be written. Nor could anything Truman Capote or Norman Mailer wrote/writes. Truman Capote lost a lot of friends because he insisted on filling his novels and short stories with them. Nor could such books as You Can't Go Home Again, etc., be written. Thomas Wolfe was run out of town, and had his life threatened, for writing about all the real people he knew. This isn't uncommon.

4. Even if the writer doesn't write about real people, and even if he swears this is so, real people he knows will always swear he used them in his novel. They'll "recognize: themselves, even if it isn't them.

5. It probably is them, even if the writer believes it isn't.

mum23
06-24-2007, 09:47 PM
So basically am I of the understanding that if a character 'resembles' someone, I can claim it is ficticious?
I suppose at the end of the day, if my husbands ex was to read my work, she would know it was about her eventhough I am not basing my character on her just my experiences OF her.
I just wonder how jackie Collins got away with it when she wrote 'Hollywood wives.'

There are so many stories out there, 'A child called It' and books that describe someones dreadful upbringing etc.

Jamesaritchie
06-24-2007, 10:17 PM
So basically am I of the understanding that if a character 'resembles' someone, I can claim it is ficticious?
I suppose at the end of the day, if my husbands ex was to read my work, she would know it was about her eventhough I am not basing my character on her just my experiences OF her.
I just wonder how jackie Collins got away with it when she wrote 'Hollywood wives.'

There are so many stories out there, 'A child called It' and books that describe someones dreadful upbringing etc.

The thing is this. Even if you aren't writing about your husband's ex, she'll swear you were. If it worries you, just use common sense, change the names and locations, etc. It should BE fictitious, even if you are writing about the truth.

Anthony Ravenscroft
06-24-2007, 11:41 PM
The thread title is horribly misleading: there's no "inspiration" when all you're doing is telling true tales & changing the names.

The more a character & circumstance resembles actual verifiable occurrences, the more likely you are to lose a suit -- maybe not for libel, but invasion of privacy is another matter.

You avoid it by... oh, I dunno, maybe being a writer or something. Sure, go ahead & swipe some glittering moment, but if you're incapable of otherwise creating a person or situation in prose, you're not much of a writer, & a rather poor journalist.

If you obsess about it, then I'd guess you're hoping to inflict pain, & sneaking it into print so that you can feel secretly superior to your unwitting victim is more important than telling a story. Get past it, because my feeling is that a typical editor will pick up on this quirk & turn you down for being kinda skin-crawly.

Sassee
06-25-2007, 12:32 AM
I disagree Anthony. It's not always about laziness... my protag's best friend is based off of one of my good friends, and it's because I find her hilarious in real life. She's a unique personality. I love getting her down on paper to see how she'd react to and help the protag deal with paranormal situations. (My story is obviously not based on fact)

I won't argue that making a believable character is much harder than "copying" from life, but you have to admit that not everyone steals from real life purely as a point of laziness.

BlueTexas
06-25-2007, 02:14 AM
One of of the characters in the novel I'm working on now is absolutely based on a real person. I used that person's personality but changed all details circumstantial - job, residence, appearance, family. Then, to me anyway, it becomes fiction. Also, this person would never do some of the dreadful things I have her doing. Don't know if that helps you any, but there it is.

scarletpeaches
06-25-2007, 02:27 AM
So how do I go about writing a novel on experiences of step mother/ 2nd wife without using real people?

Make them up.