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Shamrock

Too write or not to write

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Posted (edited)

I have been wondering how far as a writer you can go basing a story on a real person's life or a particularly time in a real person life?  I am not talking about writing a fictional account of someone a historical novel about a past monarch,  but using aspects of an individual's situation in your work. I know writer's have been sued by individuals who believe they have been portrayed without consent. There again, someone like Ben Elton, writes novels where certain celebrities are thinly disguised and he gets away with it.

 

The reason I am asking is that I have an idea that been kicking around for several months which could be exciting to write but it was inspired when I read about an entertainer's unusual youth. If I wrote the story it would hard to disguise them because of the unique circumstances of that person's situation & their background but it would move to a completely fictional story fairly quickly. 

Any thoughts?

Edited by Shamrock

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This depends on how skilled you've become so far. If you're one of those people who only takes three drafts before it's ready to publish, don't. If you're someone like me who takes three dozen drafts before it's ready, go for it.

 

My story is a combination of stuff I have gone through, stuff I almost went through, and a big emotional chasm in my soul, (not to be confused with the spirit that God gave me), from being unceremonially removed from society as a whole.

 

Sounds deep, doesn't it? Now, remember, I'm still talking my teddy bear epic, so I figured out how to do it in an alt-universe kind of way. And, every single time I rework it, if I see any similarity with what really happened, I still find some way to fictionalize that event just one step further. 

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What are the fundamental elements of the story?  Can they be moved, reordered, stretched or compressed until the celebrity in question could read it and say, "Glad that didn't happen to me!" 

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On 3/15/2020 at 12:27 PM, Shamrock said:

There again, someone like Ben Elton, writes novels where certain celebrities are thinly disguised and he gets away with it.

 

That's because celebrities are considered "public personalities," and it is harder to sue for things like defamation.

 

Your average Joe Schmoe?  They'll sue, and most likely win.

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It may be best to let this idea marinate a little while longer. Exactly how unique are the individual circumstances and what is their relative contribution to the story you want to tell?

 

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Remember there are two issues here: Defamation and Invasion of Privacy. The first one is likely not an issue, but the second one likely is.

 

Also, you need to be doubly cautious due to your location. In the U.S. the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove not just a violation but intent. In the U.K. it's the opposite, essentially you as a defendant would have the burden of proof to demonstrate innocence; it's a much more difficult predicament for you and U.K. courts tend to be biased toward the plaintiff. 

 

Basically, you want to change the circumstances of your story enough that no reasonable person would assume it was about the individual you were inspired by.

 

And to be clear, I am not a lawyer in any country, I've just studied these issues a fair amount. Obviously you shouldn't take anything you read on an Internet forum as legal counsel. 

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Chris Brown said:

Obviously you shouldn't take anything you read on an Internet forum as legal counsel. 

!!!!! (even here, but it helps)

Edited by carolinamtne

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