AW is an Amazon Affiliate

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


paypal subscribe button

How To Support AW

Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: Basing a story on real life events

Hybrid View

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin g_eke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    46

    Basing a story on real life events

    Are there any obvious or not-so-obvious risks one needs to be aware of when writing a story that is heavily influenced by true life events involving other people? I came across a piece of news from a few years back that was tragic, but certain elements I felt would make for a very gripping story, if told the right way.

    Thanks writers!

  2. #2
    Redacted Auteur's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    448
    If you're writing fiction, you should probably change the names of people involved so you don't get sued for defamation and maybe the names of the places just to be safe.

  3. #3
    Wherever I go, there I am. indianroads's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    1,864
    Quote Originally Posted by Auteur View Post
    If you're writing fiction, you should probably change the names of people involved so you don't get sued for defamation and maybe the names of the places just to be safe.
    +1 to that.

  4. #4

  5. #5
    Wherever I go, there I am. indianroads's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    1,864
    Quote Originally Posted by cornflake View Post
    Changing names will not protect you from a lawsuit.
    True. Better to blend characters and alter speech patterns. Move the dates and change locations too. You can do all that and tell the same story. Nothing can keep people from suing you for defamation (or whatever) but you can defend yourself by not making it obvious who in real life you are writing about in fiction.

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin g_eke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    46
    Thanks for the replies. What if the events in the story can still be obviously traced back to particular individuals though, will that lead to potential litigation? As a really crude example, I might write about a man with a debilitating disease who is wheelchair bound. This man defies the odds and becomes a nobel prize winning astrophysicist. Anyone as high profile as Hawking would be instantly recognizable, but what about someone less well known but who nevertheless is associated with very specific actions and events?

  7. #7
    Bigger Than A Bread Box Absolute Sage lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,165
    Quote Originally Posted by g_eke View Post
    Thanks for the replies. What if the events in the story can still be obviously traced back to particular individuals though, will that lead to potential litigation? As a really crude example, I might write about a man with a debilitating disease who is wheelchair bound. This man defies the odds and becomes a nobel prize winning astrophysicist. Anyone as high profile as Hawking would be instantly recognizable, but what about someone less well known but who nevertheless is associated with very specific actions and events?
    a) Don't do it.
    b) If you disregard a), talk to an attorney and follow their instructions.
    c) Don't do it.
    August goals:

    Revisions!

    Stretch goal:

    Possibly a short but not if it sets me back on the above

    Latest short story: "Factory Reset"

    Linky to all the short stories.
    My short story, "Overlay," written for The Verge and adapted into a short animated film


    Like AW? Here's how to support it!



    Here are some books I wrote.
    Here's a newsletter (and public archive, for the curious-but-don't-want-to-subscribe crowd)

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    15
    If it's about a specific person you were inspired by, have you tried just getting their permission to write a story about them?
    @jechillemi

  9. #9
    THE BLUEBERRY QUEEN OF HADES BenPanced's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    dunking doughnuts at Dunkin' Donuts
    Posts
    17,002
    Quote Originally Posted by JEChillemi View Post
    If it's about a specific person you were inspired by, have you tried just getting their permission to write a story about them?
    See this from lizmonster:
    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    talk to an attorney and follow their instructions.
    IANAL nor do I play one on TV but "consult an attorney" is always, always great advice in situations like this; you'd get advice from a qualified professional who'd be able to help in case things got stickier than anticipated, and your subject's best interests would be protected, as well.
    I still poop rainbows.

    I won't steal any of your ideas. I have enough of my own I'm not using.

  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin g_eke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    46
    I really want to do this, and hope if I change specific details enough then I can sidestep any lawsuits. Thing is, how to tell what is enough?

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    16,017
    Quote Originally Posted by g_eke View Post
    I really want to do this, and hope if I change specific details enough then I can sidestep any lawsuits. Thing is, how to tell what is enough?
    Again, changing details will NOT protect you from lawsuits. If people can recognize themselves, they can sue you. If people THINK they recognize themselves, they can sue you.

    Remember, even if you think you'd be likely to win a lawsuit, that doesn't change that you'd have to fight it first.

  12. #12
    Bigger Than A Bread Box Absolute Sage lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,165
    Quote Originally Posted by cornflake View Post
    Remember, even if you think you'd be likely to win a lawsuit, that doesn't change that you'd have to fight it first.
    This. Lawsuits are expensive even if you win.
    August goals:

    Revisions!

    Stretch goal:

    Possibly a short but not if it sets me back on the above

    Latest short story: "Factory Reset"

    Linky to all the short stories.
    My short story, "Overlay," written for The Verge and adapted into a short animated film


    Like AW? Here's how to support it!



    Here are some books I wrote.
    Here's a newsletter (and public archive, for the curious-but-don't-want-to-subscribe crowd)

  13. #13
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin g_eke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    46
    Quote Originally Posted by cornflake View Post
    If people can recognize themselves, they can sue you. If people THINK they recognize themselves, they can sue you.
    Point taken. I'll do my level best to prevent the first from happening (hopefully mitigating the second in the process). I've thought of several ways to ensure the person who inspired the idea (now deceased), isn't recognizable. It's basically another story entirely now. In my head, at least.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW RookieWriter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Mojave Desert
    Posts
    1,505
    Quote Originally Posted by g_eke View Post
    Are there any obvious or not-so-obvious risks one needs to be aware of when writing a story that is heavily influenced by true life events involving other people? I came across a piece of news from a few years back that was tragic, but certain elements I felt would make for a very gripping story, if told the right way.

    Thanks writers!
    Not sure how it works in the UK but there seems to be a lot of fiction in nonfiction in the US. Right now there is something called "creative non-fiction" which is taking stories based on truth and making them more readable. For example if you're writing a story about your childhood and you were bullied by four different kids, in the story you might make it into one bully who did all of the same things the four kids did. It gets combined because it's shorter and easier to follow. That kinda stuff. I don't know the legal side of it but if you were to get a book published in the US by a major publisher they have so many gatekeepers that they will not publish it until they know they are protected. It might mean several rewrites. If you are self publishing then I would speak to an attorney about what you need to do. In the US if someone is a public figure and you are writing about them then you are usually safe as long as what you're writing is true. Make sure that it's correct. Even then, though, I would talk to an attorney.

  15. #15
    THE BLUEBERRY QUEEN OF HADES BenPanced's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    dunking doughnuts at Dunkin' Donuts
    Posts
    17,002
    Quote Originally Posted by RookieWriter View Post
    In the US if someone is a public figure and you are writing about them then you are usually safe as long as what you're writing is true.
    Not necessarily. Anybody can sue anybody else for any reason in the US. It could be a true story the subject doesn't want aired publicly because whatever; it's not worth it.

    Even then, though, I would talk to an attorney.
    Always this.
    I still poop rainbows.

    I won't steal any of your ideas. I have enough of my own I'm not using.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search