Author Topic: Writing from history/"inspiried by true story"/what???  (Read 1622 times)

Offline Dj.Deem

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Writing from history/"inspiried by true story"/what???
« on: March 02, 2009, 08:42:54 PM »
Hey everyone

Im a newbie to this whole screenplay writing thing, as I am taking my first adventure into writing a script.

So I have this idea for a story that is based off of some pre-world war II stuff, and was wondering if this is "kosher".

Like, should I write about the guy directly, using his name and try and stick as close to truth and history as I can? (which is pretty interesting in itself)

Or, should I try and adapt the real-life story to be more entertaining and such. <<<Can you do this without getting in "trouble?" Is it illegal or something to write about someone and exaggerate events and mix them around? I feel like this has been done, but I'm just looking for some clarity.

Thanks for all the responses, and I look forward to becoming more active in this community!
Also, The man the story is about is deceased.

Offline Don

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Re: Writing from history/"inspiried by true story"/what???
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2009, 10:28:24 PM »
You haven't given us a lot of detail to go on, DJ, so I'll stick to generalities.

If you are writing about the actual experiences of your subject, I see no reason not to use his or her real name in the story.  If you are creating, exaggerating, rearranging or otherwise modifying the events this person lived through, I would use a different name and a similarities-to-any-person-living-or-dead disclaimer. Hope this helps.
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Offline Annmarie

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Re: Writing from history/"inspiried by true story"/what???
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2009, 03:14:49 AM »
This is an off-the-cuff opinion: Just write a good screenplay. Do it in whatever way is best for the story. Sticking too close to real life events often doesn't yield the kind of tidy story the screen usually gives us. Real life has too many slumps, or there's a danger of piling on one significant scene on top of another in a rush to get the whole story in, at which point you have a stream of anecdotes almost and no real film. I'm thinking of that Will Smith film about Mohammed Ali. I didn't think it was particularly good because it didn't have a central message, really. It stuck to his life and ended up saying nothing about it.

Of course you can write the screenplay using real people as central characters. You  have to be true to  who they were as people, though, their personalities in particular. The events of the story may veer from real life, you can invent whole episodes of their lives that never really happened if you choose, and link them with fictional characters. Why not? It's done all the time. But  if you find yourself changing the real person too fundamentally to fit your story, then fictionalize the whole thing, with a new name etc. You can be inspired by a real person and the events in his or her life without sticking religiously to the facts. That would be journalism, not art. As for the legal question, just get the screenplay written and sold. Let the producers worry about the legal stuff.

Hope this helps.  :)
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Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Writing from history/"inspiried by true story"/what???
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2009, 12:57:27 PM »
In Cold Blood is the fictionalized story of the actual murders as written by Truman Capote

If you say
Based on the life of Joe Schmoe I think it is okay to fictionalize the story in some respects. But staying as close to the actual life is probably best.
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

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Offline Annmarie

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Re: Writing from history/"inspiried by true story"/what???
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2009, 02:18:55 AM »
In Cold Blood is the fictionalized story of the actual murders as written by Truman Capote

If you say
Based on the life of Joe Schmoe I think it is okay to fictionalize the story in some respects. But staying as close to the actual life is probably best.

Actually, it's not fiction. In Cold Blood is classic narrative non-fiction, or journalism written in the style of fiction. It took him 6 years, the research help of Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) and endless interviews and research to get the detail of a novel.

In other words, Capote didn't make any of the story up, he reconstructed dialogue and attitudes/thoughts based on exhaustive exploration of the people involved, through years of top notch research.

If that's what you want to try, DJ.Deem, give it a shot. But there's a reason so few people can achieve what Capote did. He  was a genius. :)
« Last Edit: March 05, 2009, 02:27:09 AM by Annmarie »
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Offline lesleyslfree

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Re: Writing from history/"inspiried by true story"/what???
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2009, 12:04:42 PM »
Hi Guys and girls,

I only joined this morning, but reading this post is just what I was looking at as I wish to write an novel based on true life events but changing details to protect the orginal characters.

The only thing I am struggling with as working on my outline, blueprint and characters, based on write and book in 28 days by Nick Daws, there is a set amount of chapters according to style of book.  So when it is novel based on true life events is that classed as a literary novel and needs 30 plus chapters?

I am finding this really helpful and I hope my replies on here helps someone else.

Many thanks

Lesley.