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Writing Books/Book based on a true story


QUESTION: I want to write a book based on a true story. Just to keep it short my best friend was murdered, and I wanted to know what I need to research as far as needing permission from the family to do so. Is there any other legal issues I need to look at. Thank you.


First of all, my condolences on the loss of your friend.  That's a terrible thing.

I also want to say that a lot depends on how you approach this.  Are you looking to do it as a factual account (i.e., a "true crime" story)?  That would fall under journalism, and legally speaking, you have quite a lot of leeway.  If you're reporting facts, you don't particularly need anyone's permission.  

If this is your intended approach, you're pretty much good to go.

On the other hand, if you're doing a fictionalized account, or a novel loosely based on the actual events, then you need to be a little careful, depending on how you're writing it.

If this is your intended approach, let me know, and I'll elaborate further.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the fast reply. Every thing that will be told will be true experiences and events. I don't know if I can use real names of people i will use or not, things like that. There may be some fictional events though. Thank you.

Well, if you're going to use ANY fictional stuff at all, then yeah... you should get the buy-in of anyone directly involved, because you may need to change things.  Again, if it's ALL true, then you're pretty safe.  But as soon as you introduce non-factual events, you have to make sure you're not going to cross any lines.

Best of luck.

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Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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