Is okay to use people you know?

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Is okay to use people you know?

Post by Jennifer_million on Sat Apr 11, 2009 8:56 pm

I am new to this site. It was recommended by a user to this site. Anyways, the current story I am working on, I am using a person's personal story he told me as my character Thomas's story. Is this okay or should I get permission off of them to do this?
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Re: Is okay to use people you know?

Post by NaClmine on Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:11 am

If a real person is identifiable in your story then you could be sued for so doing. Even if you get the person's permission, you need to make sure the documents are legally sufficient to bind not only him/her, but also any "assigns or heirs". And, remember, when you're using a person's "real story", other people that affected his/her life may become identifiable in your story and they can also take legal action if they are identifiable. It's a slippery slope and the best advice is to consult a literary attorney before using any real life person in your story or any character that can be identified as such. Also, if you mention to a potential publisher that you used such a role model without benefit of legal counsel, you can understand that a publisher might then lose interest.
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Re: Is okay to use people you know?

Post by Jennifer_million on Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:15 am

Even when I changed the names??
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Re: Is okay to use people you know?

Post by NaClmine on Sun Apr 12, 2009 12:48 pm

If I wrote a fictionalized story about a president, a little blue dress and some inappropriate behavior inside the Oval office, would you know who the "role" models were? Of course.

Well, the same principle applies to everyone else too. It is not necessary for the public, at large, to be able to identify the source of the story. What if your role model had an overbearing mother, and his childhood story (or flashbacks) included his reaction to brutality in his upbringing? If his mother (or her family/friends) can identify the mother by the storyline, then you could hear from her attorney. That's why a name-change-only is not a writing decision; it's a legal decision -- about writing, hence the need for a literary attorney.

That said, I frequently use RL as source for stories. I am careful to change names, dates, locations . . . even gender . . . of anyone who might be part of the RL scenario. I may even substitute the main event with a different main event that can produce the same outcome. For example, if a RL young woman was raped, causing her to have difficulty trusting men, then I might change the motivational event to her brother being killed by a strange man, leaving her with a distrust of men. Point is, I can achieve the same impact for my MC by using a different story device to accomplish the desired emotional result. By the time I make all the changes, any correlation to RL can be reasonably explained away as coincidence.

But, in direct answer to your question, only changing names is not enough and a literary attorney should be consulted if that is all you want to do.
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Re: Is okay to use people you know?

Post by Jennifer_million on Sun Apr 12, 2009 4:06 pm

thank you for answering my question and giving me some examples to think of. =)
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