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Writing Books/fiction based on real people

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Question
Will I face any legal problem if I write a parody of a real event, and use the names of the real characters involved in that event? The event took place in about 1980, and many of the people are still living.

Answer
That's not a simple question to answer. A lot depends on who the people are and how you portray them.

In general, broadly speaking, you can use real people in fiction. Celebrities often show up on fiction, and they're pretty much fair game, as that's one of the prices of fame. Regular old civilians are another matter. They have more legal protections than celebrities.

The question really boils down to this: if a real person can recognize him-/herself in a work of fiction (no matter if you've given a different name), would they be upset at how they are portrayed? If there's a chance of yes, you might want to reconsider.

In any case, civilian or celeb, you do not want to portray them inaccurately, e.g., don't portray them saying or doing something they'd never say or do.

You can certainly t read it on libel law (and you should), but hopefully this will give you some guidance.  

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

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.

Experience

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

Education/Credentials
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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