Author Topic: characters based on real people  (Read 1214 times)

Offline iwannabeone

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characters based on real people
« on: December 25, 2014, 02:01:20 PM »
Sometimes my characters take on personalities of real people that I have known. At times, I donít even realize this is happening. At other times, I do and make a great effort to hide anything that might be recognizable and be used to identify the real person. I only write fiction and wonder how much legal protection a writer gets from including a disclaimer about this issue. In other words, if someone identifies a real person as the basis of my character, am I exposed to potential legal action? I usually include something like the following at the beginning of my stories -

"None of the characters are intended to portray real people. Names and incidents either are the product of the authorís own imagination or are fictitiously used and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead is entirely by coincidence." 

Jo Bannister

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Re: characters based on real people
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2014, 03:17:59 PM »
It's probably true to say that all fictional characters are based, to some extent and in different admixtures, on actual people.  The secret of not getting sued is to make sure none of them is identifiable as such.  It sounds as if you're doing that.  Inadvertent libel is theoretically possible, but I can't remember a case.  Though I hasten to add, I'm not a lawyer.

The disclaimer is certainly helpful, though it wouldn't cover you to deliberately libel someone.

The main danger - not the only one, but probably the likeliest - is to use a name you've invented only to discover that someone who also matches the description in other ways has the same name.  If you're going to have a murderous dentist, solicitor, architect or other professional, Google the name and make sure there's no one in that profession with that or even a similar name. 

Human nature being what it is, this may be less important if your dentist, solicitor, architect or whatever is described as being the world's greatest lover!