REALISTIC FICTION STARTS HERE
What it’s like to insert a fictional character into a historical event for the purpose of telling a story.
The basic question is unanswered: how to take over a historical event and change it.
Such as how to write a thriller with someone else as President!
So, it’s fiction, identified exactly as so in the beginning of the books, and mine to do with as I will.
I doubt someone has to get permission from the White House to change the President – or we wouldn’t have President Bartlett and The West Wing.
So I’m worried about nothing.
The general rule to changing a name has to be avoiding harm
If you are going to say something negative, it might bring a lawsuit if the named person or organization feels it affects their reputation in some way. And even if a court decides they are wrong, and you get an amazing amount of viral publicity out of this (google the Streisand Effect if you don’t remember it), it is going to take a lot of your time, effort, and money to fight such a suit – and there is no guarantee you will win.
Organizations can have in-house lawyers who eat problems like this for lunch. They will bury you easily – nothing personal – and have no mercy.
Please read books on writing and copyright, and know the legal definitions of Libel (Letter – ie, written – mnemonics mine, probably not original) and Slander (Spoken) and ask yourself, as a start, whether YOU would feel libeled or slandered if you were the subject.
If even you are uneasy, it may be easier to change the name that might get offended.
And you might have to change that to something that is significantly different in enough ways that no reasonable person would be offended (unpredictable).
Where’s this coming from?
For the purpose of NETHERWORLD, I sort of have to insult a famous movie or two, and some actors – in a minor way.
The insult consists in taking away an earned award – and awarding it to someone else, another movie.
The problem stems from everyone’s ‘knowledge’ of how Hollywood works, and what the major awards are from which organizations.
In the same way that President Bartlett is less interesting if he is Superintendent Bartlett of an unnamed or fictitious school district, an actor getting a life-changing nomination for, say, an Academy Award is more interesting than if I make up an organization called FCBM and award my character their Best Actor award.
Along with ‘The White House’ you get an amazing amount of the reader’s foreknowledge of how things work there – which saves a lot of words and explanations.
Along with ‘an Oscar’ you get the same kind of response – red carpet, photographers, exotic borrowed clothing for beautiful women… And the whole suspense thing dragged out as long as possible, followed by one winner and a lot of gracious losers who were honored to be nominated. It’s in your head already, and a writer just needs to mention a few points to trigger a full-blown award ceremony in your mind.
Why do I even bother worrying about this kind of stuff?
Well, first because I’m a worrier.
Second, because I want that identification and value from the awards. I agree with the organizations and the individuals that they are worth a great deal in a career.
Third, because the last thing I need in my state of energy and illness and retirement is some organization getting its panties in a twist because I, well, lied.
Fourth, because I hope to be famous and well-read (not synonymous) some day, I want to do it right, and not leave a mess for my heirs.
Fifth, because, as a writer, it’s my job.
Have you had to face this choice? If so, how did you handle it? Have there been repercussions?
As a reader, have you ever wondered if the author has stepped over the line? Care to share?