Fact or fiction?

You know that little statement at the start or end of fiction books? Sometimes there’s a little disclaimer about the work being fiction. That the characters and events in the book are fiction and any resemblance to people dead or alive is a coincidence.

 

Reality

Yes. Yes, it is.

 

I understand why publishers and authors do this. They’re covering their own butts. You certainly don’t want someone who perceives themselves to be the villain in a bestseller to sue you for character defamation or something. (Is this even a thing? Anyway…) I’ll admit it. I have several characters who are based on my nearest and dearest.

The first novel I wrote even has the imagined bookshop we all envisioned ourselves running. You know, when people realised that electronic books were not the way to go. Obviously, we all still have other jobs and that dream was only ever a blue sky project – but I put it in the book.

The main character of this novel is completely fictional but her best friend Maxine is a real person, as is her mother Nicky and her sister Kelly. These are real people, these are their reals names and they are Nicky’s kids. I grew up with Maxine and we’re still best friends. Now, I did ask permission to use their names and they have read the manuscript and approved the use in that context, not in writing or anything just a quick ‘yeah I don’t mind.’

Although I have based these characters around real people, the personalities of these fictional beings do not match the real, breathing, walking and talking people. Nicky – maaaybe. Maxine and Kelly definitely not. I have plans for Max and Kelly but Nicky will remain the steadfast mast in a whirlwind of chaos – just as she is in real life.

I suppose I wondered if people sue others because of their depiction in books. I found a great article on it at Writer’s Digest . If I was going to be horrible to someone I don’t think I would make it as obvious as calling them by their name or even having the physical description resemble the real life person. Disclaimer – All my villains are imagined. I do write about actual events but without specific details. Human experience is universal. Isn’t it?

I recently finished writing the first book in my urban fantasy trilogy and one of the characters is based on another best friend – Frances. She comes in very late to the book but because it’s a trilogy her part is important in the next two books. Now, in the books Frances is dead – in reality obviously she’s alive. I had a hard time separating fact from fiction in this book because of my relationship with her.

Ghost_pottery_wheel

Just because…

Describing how she dies was particularly tough. But should I have excluded it? I don’t think so because it is the emotional connection that I have to these people, in real life, that help enrich the story. The ties I have with them are hopefully passed through my words and should help the reader connect as well. At least I hope so.

 

I remember telling Fran about her character, I told her that I was sobbing while writing about her. She asked. “Am I dead? Did you kill me?!” I said yes, because I had, but considering the book is about ghosts, it’s very relevant.To be clear the character Frances is very different from the person, but there are elements that tie the two together that only me and people who know her will ‘get.’ She’s a well-rounded character as are all the characters I write. They have to be because otherwise I might as well write a memoir and just stick them in it.

I’d like to know if anyone else does this? Do you write about people you know? Either secretly or is it blatantly obvious?

Come on over and friend me on Facebook at Lisa Lancaster. 

Photo by Face Thinking  via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
Photo from Wikipedia

 

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25 thoughts on “Fact or fiction?

  1. “You certainly don’t want someone who perceives themselves to be the villain in a bestseller to sue you for character defamation or something.” This sounds like a story just waiting to be written. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Personally, I find the connection to real life people is too strong when their name is involved, so instead I just borrow bits and pieces of real people. Their tastes in food. Their humor. Their likes and dislikes. Their romantic preferences. All these things become like bits of glass, rearranged to make up the stained glass window that is a character, for me. Even bits and pieces of me and my personality are in there, mixed in to make the people real, yet very definitely fiction. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know what, I agree. I know that’s not what I have done in the past but those books are written. I can’t say I’ll be doing it again. Particularly for the character who is dead, that ruined me a little bit. Although, I also can’t say it won’t happen either. I’m a little nuts like that. I like thinking about characters like little bits of glass, that makes perfect sense to me. Oh and even the worst characters have to have a little bit of yourself in there, otherwise how can you relate to them. I think you’re spot on!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One way or another all writers write about people they know,usually a mishmash of several people in one.
    As long as the name is different and as long as the character doesnt do exactly what the real character does, then theres really no danger of defamation law suits etc, although I am sure there must have been some in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the confidence to write an actual book. What I do know is that everyone says to write what you know, so I can only imagine that a majority of authors at least pull elements of their characters from people they know. How could you create someone from nothing and still get a palpable emotional connection for the reader?

    My two cents! 🙂 Answered your question with a question. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s where I started too. I wrote what I knew and now I’m writing books like the ones I love to read…. Which is a little daunting. I agree though when I think about it even characters I thought had nothing to do with ‘real life’ people have something about them, be it hair colour or a habit that resounds with someone I know. Also, you write wonderfully Megs! I’d love to read a book you have written. Maybe one day 😎

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I wrote about my year on a farm. Named all the hens after my sisters. When I wrote that chicken Susi had just walked into the road and committed suicide, my sister called me to say there is no way she would have done that and why did she have to be the one who died? lol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Are you kidding me? I sure do write about them. I’m pretty good at code-writing though. Some know it’s about them, some do not. Some, I flat out share a poem or short story with them, letting them know it’s all about them. I don’t have much angry writing aimed at my peoples, though. Not much at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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