Basing Characters on Real People by Amie Gibbons

*Hi guys, I’m up to my behind in alligators.  They’re little baby alligators, but all the same. Amie Gibbons gave me a post I couldn’t do since, except for some shorts, etc. I get my characters for free and they’re not based on anyone. – SAH*

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Basing Characters on Real People by Amie Gibbons

My usual disclaimer, none of this is meant to be legal advice. Do not take it as such. If you want specific legal advice, hire a lawyer. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer.

Okay, now for different disclaimers 🙂

We all know the disclaimer, “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.”

Yeah, that one. It’s in books for a reason. Does putting this at the beginning of a book keep you from being sued?

Of course not!

There are no magic words that block a lawsuit!

Anyone can sue you at any time for anything. The only questions are how long it’ll take you and how much it’ll cost you to get it tossed out or defend it.

So when can you use someone in your fiction? We all base characters on real people and everybody knows it. Well, first of all, if you want to use someone’s name, ask them!

I know, concept.

But those are usually friends, fans and beta readers who ask to be tuckerized or redshirted. They volunteer their names and find it flattering to be in there as some minor character, or even a major one, and it’s even fun for them to be killed off in the books.

How about when you want to get back at a bad reviewer or a family member or an ex?

Thennnnnn we might have an issue.

The famous example in my circle is Joe Buckley. He was some guy who gave (I think, but don’t quote me on which author it was because I can’t quite remember) John Ringo a bad review, so Ringo started killing him off in inventive ways in different books, then other authors in the circle picked it up, until killing off Joe Buckley was a trope in mil scifi and even urban fantasy in our crowd.

No clue how he got to do that besides asking the guy who left him a bad review if he could kill him off. I’m honestly betting that’s how it started. And the reviewer was probably flattered to be asked, even though he’d left a bad review.

So, let’s say you ask and get a hell no (which would happen in most situations where you’re doing it to get back at a personal connection) and you still want to use them, as in, their name.

Just don’t.

I know. I know. I am right there with ya. I have an ex I want to write in by name and kill off sooooo bad, and I can’t because he would sue my ass. No really, he’s a lawyer, that’s pretty much our default opening gambit 🙂

And you’re probably thinking if it’s fiction, then isn’t it fine, because everyone knows it’s not real?

Nope. Because that’s still invading their privacy.

And if it’s fiction based on real life events, or a non-fiction book, and everything you’re saying is true, you’re probably thinking it’s fine because it’s not defamation if it’s true. Again, that’s true, it’s not defamation, but it’s still invasion of privacy. Which is a cause of action someone can sue you for.

So what can you do? Well, there’s an article here http://helensedwick.com/how-to-use-real-people-in-your-writing/ that I looked up that has some guidance.

Basically, if you base it on someone who hasn’t given permission, do not use their name, and make sure the character is different enough that they couldn’t say it was them for sure in court. I mean, technically everyone could point to a character somewhere and say there are similarities, so again, they could always sue, but they probably wouldn’t win if it wasn’t so blatantly obviously them.

But again, won’t stop them from suing your ass.

Especially if they are lawyers 🙂

I have characters based on friends, family, exes, etc… but they are different enough that someone who knows me and the person the character is loosely based on might guess there’s some basis on that specific person, but then again, those characters could fit thousands of other people too. And the characters are different enough that someone who knew the person wouldn’t even think of them unless I told them I based a character on that person. And even then, it’s just fiction, meaning no one knows what in the book is based on real events, if anything, and what’s completely made up.

So, read the article, then think it through before you use your ex/bad reviewer/family member who stole your barbie when you were five in your book. Don’t use their names without permission (no, really, just don’t do it, and if you do get permission, get it in writing just to be safe), and make the character different enough that someone who reads the book and knows them won’t automatically put two and two together.

Happy writing!

And don’t forget to check out my new book, Psychic Spiral, the 5th in my paranormal mystery series about spunky psychic Ariana Ryder, and the rest of my books here.

94 responses to “Basing Characters on Real People by Amie Gibbons

  1. There are no magic words that block a lawsuit!

    Truth. Particularly in these insanely litigious times.

  2. But again, won’t stop them from suing your ass.

    And even should you win in court you will have spent precious time, effort and money on a experience that no one in his right mind would consider fun.

  3. There’s an excellent to stop them from suing you. Make the characters not only vile but accurately so with things that are not common knowledge. They’ll just take it then.

    • Considering Harvey Weinstein’s defense the other day I am not so sure you are right.

    • I seem to remember there have been a couple of lawsuits where the basis was that it had to be the person, BECAUSE of nasty stuff the character did that matched up with the character….

      The author had no idea the person suing had any sort of association with such things. ^.^

      • Aerosmith’s attempts to sue the makers of Spinal Tap might be kind of close to that, even though the details weren’t so much vile as ridiculous. The idea was that the only way the filmmakers could have known such details was by bugging their tour bus.

        Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and someone persuaded the band members that no amount of money was worth telling the world that they thought Spinal Tap was clearly based on them.

        • … no amount of money was worth telling the world that they thought Spinal Tap was clearly based on them.

          Sort of like beating a rape charge by demonstrating the accused has a wee willy.

      • Which ought to have been dismissed immediately. If they are not telling the truth, there is no case; and if they are, there is also no case because truth is a defense.

    • 11B-Mailclerk

      Howdy sir.

      Again, you have the ingenious option.

      (Grin)

    • To be honest, the few times we’ve thought about this, the reaction we have had in the midst of discussing it was “Nobody would believe this character is real, ever.” That and they would make extremely lame villains.

    • Tom, nowadays, “the process is the punishment” must be kept firmly in mind. And it’s been around for a while; you may have heard of a filker named Tom Smith. Back in the 90s he wrote a wonderful set of filks based on various Disney movie theme songs. When he put them out on CD, the Mouse objected. He pointed out that they fell squarely within the definition of parody as defined by the then recent SCOTUS decision.

      “You may be right. But we’re going to make you get your very own court decision saying so, and WE have a whole legion of lawyers on permanent retainer just looking for something to do. Do you? You’ll need to show up in FL next week to start the process.”

      He couldn’t afford the time or the expense EVEN THOUGH HE’D WIN. CD pulled.

      • Yes, but I am a fucking lunatic – tis well known – who just might take up arms against a sea of troubles. This helps, too. 😉

        No, seriously, while the punishment is in the process, someone has to start the process. They’re unlikely to do this if starting the process brings them much more of the shame they’re hoping to avoid.

  4. Also; if you have a burning urge to write a book that includes a historical person, fine. But be aware that people who have dedicated their lives to the study of that person will be all over you like a cheap suit. And not without reason, much of the time. With honorable exceptions, such as our gracious hostess, the vast majority of modern authors do not read anywhere NEAR enough history to write good, solid historical fiction. Most are blind to the possibility that a historical figure they have a two dimensional awareness of had other dimensions. Far too many will assume that any ‘good’ historical figure will share their (21st Century) beliefs and prejudices.

    Further; if you have a burning desire to hijack an iconic character from literature, be aware that you will necessarily be compared to the author of the original version. In the case of a hack like Edgar Rice Burroughs or Walter B. Gibson (both brilliant storytellers, but indifferent writers at best) this is not so much of a problem. But I have lost track of the aspiring authors who have tried to pick up the reins of characters like Phillip Marlow or The Continental Op, and produced laughable drivel.

    • Even such apparent hacks as Mickey Spillane may well prove more challenging than you anticipate, as noted by Mark Steyn:

      I don’t think you can love the English language and not love what Mickey Spillane does with it. Once, for a satirical column about the monumental uselessness of the British police, I attempted a Spillane parody based on the whimsical notion of Mike Hammer taking a job with some slothful pen-pushing paperwork-shuffling English constabulary. I discovered, like many would-be parodists (Mordecai Richler, for example, who attempted something similar for a chapter in Solomon Gursky Was Here) that writing Spillane is a lot harder than reading it. He’s got so much precision in even the most unimportant sentences. This is what I wound up with:

      It was one of those evenings when the fog comes down and wraps itself around the world like a five-dollar whore at the end of a slow week. All I saw was the dame standing there under the sodium light in a dress that was too tight last year. The cold, clammy night glistened on her full, round breasts.

      ‘Help, help,’ she whimpered. ‘I’ve just been attacked. They pulled me out of my car and stole my handbag.’ Now I knew why I’d noticed her breasts. Her buttons were ripped off, and those babies were coming out to play.

      ‘Relax, honey,’ I told her. ‘Call the Violent Assault Hotline during office hours, and we’ll send someone over to take a statement early next week.’

      ‘But they’re in the next street, dividing up the cash. If we hurry, we can catch them.’

      I slapped her hard. ‘I don’t hurry, baby, except when I’m on my way home with a ham and pepperoni and doing 120 in a residential street.’

      She pressed herself against me and the heat of her skin seared my shirt. ‘But you’re Mike Hammer.’ I could feel the rise and fall of her bazoongas against the bruises on my ribcage. I’d been manning the random breathalyser checkpoint, and some punk accountant had opened the door of his Mondeo too quickly. This tomato was better than anything the doc had prescribed. ‘You’re the hardest-boiled dick on the South Midlands (North) Force,’ she purred in my chest hair. ‘I hear you killed a couple of guys.’

      ‘Yeah, but only when I was doing 120 in a residential street. And you should have seen the paperwork afterwards.’

      https://www.steynonline.com/8512/hammer-and-tongues

      • I think the only thing you could do with Mike Hammer is write him as polished as you can, and have him make scathing comments about the hack who wrote those stories in his name.

      • > Spillane

        Spillane was no hack. He wrote what his readers were willing to pay money for. And those fans bought 225 million copies of his work, much to the dismay of the literati.

        Funny, how the proletariat insists on buying trash instead of reading the true literature selected for them by their betters… the only way most of those “betters” can sell anything is to get one of their compatriots to get it assigned as classroom reading material.

        • Spillane was a talented hack, like Burroughs or Gibson. Gibson’s storytelling was so popular that Street and Smith were at one time publishing two Shadow magazines a month (with other writers shuffled in). Burroughs created an Icon in Tarzan. Hammer misses being an Icon by the tiniest margin. Marlow and Spade came first, and did the tough talk more lyrically without putting them out of the grasp of Hammer’s prime audience. That has something to do with it. But Tarzan is Iconic and Mowgli somehow isn’t. Spillane is undoubtedly a better writer than some who were praised int their own lifetimes, like Farrar of ERIC OR LITTLE BY LITTLE infamy.

          Maybe I’m just prejudiced, having struck Hammett and Chandler first, and feeling that Spillane is a coarser grain.

          • Terry Sanders

            The coarser grain was at least partly deliberate. The postwar readers were more interested in sex and violence, and not nearly as interested in chivalry. One of the things they *liked* about Mike Hammer was that he didn’t take any **** those femme fatale b****es.

            Spillane gave them what they wanted. His competitors did, too. The most memorable, in my reading, was Richard Prather’s Shell Scott–who leavened the casual sex and violence with a certain self-deprecating humor. But even he kept up in the sex and violence parts. He might not slap the dame around, but he sure knew where her bedroom was.

            • > self-deprecating humor

              Interspersed with ROFL “help, I need more air!” humor…

              The early Shell Scott stories were pretty much straight-up detective fiction, but Prather certainly manage to find my funny bone in the later ones.

              • Terry Sanders

                Yeah. You a)most had to get to Remo Williams and Chiun to fimd thatykind of humor in action adventure again.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          “Hemingway hated me. I sold 200 million books, and he didn’t. Of course most of mine sold for 25 cents, but still… you look at all this stuff with a grain of salt.”

          — Mickey Spillane

    • It’s like fanfic. (Difference being, it’s for pay.)

      There’s a LOT of bad fanfic……

      Some really good stuff, though– ran into a Sherlock writer who did an amazingly good job.

      On the flipside, some fanfic is *better* than the original stuff.
      Come to think of it, that’s the whole joke of Galaxy Quest, isn’t it? The fans did a better job than the original show.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Well, in Galaxy Quest it was obvious that the writers/fans loved the original (even if they did a better job than some of the movies). 😀

      • Consider checking out Marcia Wilson, and then if you don’t mind jumping past the third novel (got taken down from fanfic for publication like the first two but seems to have gone missing?) and some possible unclarity of sequence, aragonite on fanfiction.net for the rest.

        I really like her work.

      • Sturgeon’s Law also applies to fanfic.

    • I note that in my experience, even the best historical fiction suffers the necessity of having to drape the plot around the real events, except insofar as it manages to leave all the big names out of the story.

  5. Public figures remain fair game, right?

    Do we need a definition of public figure for this purpose?

    • the dfinition seems to be, anyone the courts will agree has ever been in the public eye. The original precident setting case was concerning a child prodigy who sued The New Yorker over a profile done after he had spent years in self imposed isolation.

      But the things is, the courts are not run by machines, but by men, and getting the ruling you need out of them could be expensive.

  6. I don’t recall hearing of any trouble for David Drake with his use of Platt as a particularly vile villainous type that usually meets an unpleasant end, after the RL Platt called the Hammer’s Slammers stories violence porn (or something like that), claiming that Drake wouldn’t have written them in that way if he had actually been in combat.

    Y’know, like Drake actually was, attached to the 11th Armored Cav during the Vietnam War.

    Of course, Mr. Drake is a lawyer, too, which might have something to do with it. 😉

    • I think the term used was “carnography”, with the obvious associations following in train. (Most references in a cursory search of the term in relation to Drake were from ESR and others noting that anyone tying the term to his writing hadn’t actually read it.)

  7. IIRC, Joe beat David Weber in a game of spades, so Weber had him die in a missile barrage. It kind of snowballed from there.

    • Isn’t Joe Buckley the maintainer of the Fifth Imperium?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Yes.

        Of course, the Real Joe Buckley apparently takes his deaths humorously.

        • Part of me is sort of toying with making the Big Bad in the current book “Joe Buckley”, but that might be too heavy handed.

  8. I have given this some thought. And like Amie says “don’t do it”. Yeah I know a few people that have done me dirty and it can be tempting. Looking at it from another angle, do they deserve to be immortalized in print?

    • Not exactly applicable here, but I have said write me good, write me evil, write me competent, write me bungling, etc. Just please don’t write me dull. Though, really, that might be the closest to truth there could be.

    • Wouldn’t it be better to use whatever they did to show how/why it’s wrong, by divorcing it from the person and using it to build a villain?

  9. I own to having had a lot of fun using real people as a kind of launch-point in creating characters in the Luna City books – but in a couple of cases where my co-author and I used a real first name, we changed everything else. Or if we used some characteristics of real people, no way did use anything like their real name.
    For the novels where I wrote in very real historical characters into the narrative there was plenty of materiel about them to have a pretty good estimation of how they appeared to their contemporaries, for good or ill.

  10. Christopher M. Chupik

    Haven’t done it yet, though I’ve certainly used little bits and pieces of real people. Definitely haven’t done it with malicious intent, but I’ve been sorely tempted.

  11. Don’t be Jerry O’connell playing Joe Francis.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-piranha/girls-gone-wild-chief-bites-back-at-piranha-3d-idUSTRE67J3U320100820

    Be Jerry O’connell playing a character similar to Joe Francis.

    I don’t remember if Francis ever did file suit, and if he did what became of it.

  12. In the introduction of The Many Deaths of Joe Buckley John Ringo talks a little bit about the Joe Buckley character(s).

    SNIP

    Joe used to frequent one of the very first web forums, called Baen’s Bar. It had been created at the behest of Baen Books founder Jim Baen specifically so he could have long conversations “of cabbages and kings” with his authors and their fans. Joe was a frequent poster, as was I.

    In Joe’s case, however, his Internet persona tended to rub certain authors the wrong way. They knew he was a fan and many of his comments were on point, however . . .

    See above.

    Then Joe Buckley was immortalized in flaming death aboard the RMS Cutthroat (along with several other poor people who had the audacity to nil David Weber during a cutthroat spades game. None of whom even KNEW Joe Buckley.)

    And thus the legend was born. I, ahem, admit to some expansion thereof.

    /SNIP

  13. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Barbara Hambly had fun by putting two real characters (women she knew) in one of her books.

    However, Barbara Hambly “switched” personalities. IE Character A had the personality/manners of Real Person A but the appearance of Real Person B and the reverse for the other real person.

    While people who knew both real persons chuckled at what Barbara had done, one of the Real People laughed at what Barbara had done to the other Real Person but did NOT realized what Barbara did to her. 👿

    Oh, Barbara was asked about that line concerning “none of these characters are based on real people” by saying “I’m a writer, I lie for a living”. 😈 😈

  14. Putting people you know in your books can be really tricky, even if you think the portrayal is flattering. Apparently, Madeleine L’Engle had a difficult relationship with her younger brother because he didn’t like the way she portrayed him in her books. He thought his fictional counterparts were TOO good, something that he could never live up to, and he had issues with the idea that that was how his sister saw him.

    It’s probably better just not to do it, especially with people you want to keep having a relationship with.

    • Terry Sanders

      He doesn’t even need to hate it.

      A friend of mine once wrote an absurdly flattering version of me into a WIP. Then she made the mistake of asking me to help with the rewrite.*

      The more I read of it, the more intolerable that incredibly perfect distortion of me got. So I decided, if he was going to have such an array of my virtues absurdly amplified, he should have at least some of my flaws.

      The resulting character worked much better and changed the tone of the story for the better. Even she agreed. Problem was, I hadn’t been able to overcome those flaws in *myself.* I certainly wasn’t qualified to write a satisfying character arc for *this* poor guy.

      That novel is *still* in limbo. I’m not sure whether she’s forgiven me yet…

      ***

      We’d done some collaborating before, so this wasn’t *entirely stupid.

    • Huh. That’s really interesting.

    • Madeleine L’Engle was an only child

      • Mea culpa. You’re right; it was actually her son who was the inspiration for Charles Wallace Murray and Rob Austin. The rest of my comment still stands, though with the modification that he hated that that was how his MOTHER saw him.

        The first time I read the article about the intersection of L’Engle’s personal life and her stories, I didn’t realize who “Bion” was and just assumed he was her brother. Knowing the truth makes it somewhat worse.

  15. For the baby alligators, I recommend a five-iron…

  16. I have one character based on the core personality of my late Grandpa Carl. But with a lot of bits and pieces from other people and fictional characters interwoven with that core. You can’t look at the character and say “Oh, that’s Carl [last name]!” It’s more “I know a guy who would do something like that.”

    • I needed a quick farmer type to discover the shot down alien fighter crafts in his back pasture. So I drew on stories my husband told of his grandfather and used them as the ‘bones’ fleshed out with fictitious details to cover the bits I don’t know.

  17. MW used me as a character in one of his books; I ‘spect because back when I inhabited the world of one of those .gov departments he had asked me for some situational advice for one of his early non-sf books. Got me pretty well down, when he did it. I thought it was hysterical.
    As far as Mickey Spillane’s writing goes one should remember the time frame he started writing in. I always thought of his (early)stuff as being written film noir.

  18. I don’t quite get the temptation to base a character on someone I actively dislike.

    If I don’t want to be around the actual person, why would I want a caricature of them hanging around in my head?

  19. I once wrote a minor villain character who had the same look and mannerisms as a well-known editor. The reason was that editor had bought the story of a friend, invited her to his room for a discussion at a con, and made a pass at her. She turned him down and he didn’t hold it against her–no Harvey W. for sure. When I showed her the story, she said, “That character is _____, isn’t it? I was pleased with my descriptive abilities.

  20. BobtheRegisterredFool

    It was predicted, back in the day, that Obama’s attractive nuisance targeting child illegals would result in harm to the minors so lured.

    Why the presumption that adults accompanying minors illegally crossing a border are the parents? Why not sex abusers and kidnap victims?

    Traveling without the documentation that would establish the facts leaves the authorities with uncertainty to deal with. It is easy to say that the outcomes are not what you would desire. That doesn’t mean you can go back in time and implement a policy that would result in only the things you want to happen.

  21. Off topic, but what is going on with all the cookies and privacy settings on various websites?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      It may have to do with the new EU rules concerning web-sites having personal information.

      With many US web-sites having European visitors, there is concern about legal actions by the EU against US web-sites.

    • GDPR — the new EU regulation on data protection — went into effect May 25. It has significant privacy restrictions, including needing consent for lots of things that are completely legal in the US. But it also has extraterritorial effect — it applies to anyone who is handling private data of EU residents, regardless of where the data is being stored (or the company is located). And, if the EU courts can reach you to collect it, the fines can be up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 Million (whichever is greater). So anybody who thinks EU courts can get at them (or has assets in the EU that their courts can get at) is making sure to try to be in compliance.

      And one of the new requirements is how consent to have your data stored must be given. One general site summarized it as, “Consent must be clear and distinguishable from other matters and provided in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language. It must be as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it.​”

      So, in order to be compliant, lots of places are re-sending notices about how consenting to have your personal data stored/handled is being done, and allowing you to withdraw consent. And personal data is very broadly defined, since it’s anything that can identify a specific person, including things like a cookie ID or an IP address. So lots of web pages are collecting that kind of “personal data”, and are covered by the regulations. And, since their previous consent notices were probably not sufficient, they’re sending out new ones (and with May 25 being when the regulation went into final effect, they’re all been being sent in the last week or so).

      • Thank you.

      • For a number of companies apparently it’s just been easier to stop doing business in Europe, or so I was being told today by the Housemate. I guess the potential legal liability vs potential profit was deemed not worth it.

        • But that;s hard if you do business online. It applies to anyone doing business with any EU person, independent of where that person resides. So if some user, using a gmail.com address (which means you don’t know that this is from the EU) gives you personal data, then you’re now required to follow the regulations. Not doing business in the EU does, of course, mean that if you break the regulations, their courts will have difficulties collecting from you, so, in that sense, breaking the regulations doesn’t cost anything — but it means you can never do anything to put any assets within the jurisdiction of those courts.

          For any larger company (or even some smaller company that hopes to become larger someday) it’s often easier to comply.

          I also expect that the most drastic of the extraterritoriality provisions will end up getting tested in various international courts, since the claims of what’s covered and where are very broad.

          • From what I understand they’re doing regional IP blocking; including a number of news sites in the US. (Whether or not this will be very effective, I don’t know, but … *shrug*) No argument about it being hard, but right now that’s what a number of online companies are doing (including, apparently, the company that does Ragnarok Online, which I am surprised is still ongoing. That was my first ever MMO.)

            In a way though, I understand why they chose this route. While I like the reason why the EU regulations came to being (being able to tell a company to delete everything they have on you, coz, thanks Farcebook, for being a massive arse about that), I can also see that from a company standpoint, the population of the EU just became a huge liability risk, thus Not Worth It.

            You’re right that this will become something that ends up tested in courts, and it won’t be pretty.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              It might not be tested in courts if Trump does the Iran sanctions, and that takes out the EU’s economy.

            • And, the regional IP blocking can affect those who use VPNs. A lot of those “exit” in places like Europe. While you’re seeing yourself as an American, the website you’re headed to sees you as wherever-your-VPN-exits-into-the-internet.

              • And it fails to pick up, for example, an EU person, using a gmail address, whose VPN exits in the US. The regional blocking will let that person through, since it thinks it’s not dealing with someone who can trigger GDPR — but that’s wrong, since it is a covered person.

              • snelson134

                Avast’s VPN has an entry for “Gotham City, USA”…. which any number of sites (YouTube) think is in Czechoslovakia, including autotranslating all the site prompts….

      • Apparently the wording isn’t as clear as it could be, and churches and other groups have been panicking a little, at least in England, over what must have positive written approval and what doesn’t. Does giving someone’s address to the volunteer driver for a charitable meal delivery service fall under GDPR? Some said yes, some said no. It’s a mess at the moment.

        • A giant new 261 page regulation being confusing — perhaps not completely surprising. Although I’m amused by the commentary at https://www.enterpriseready.io/gdpr/how-to-read-gdpr/ — telling people where to find the better formatted 88 page unofficial version, of which the first 31 pages are mostly preamble text.

          I expect it will take years, and courts, to figure out exactly what’s covered. And, until then, a lot of places are taking defensive action, since the penalties for getting it wrong are very large.

  22. Plus, of course, the problem that people in real life don’t have to make sense.

  23. One of my late friends would make a great character in the right science fiction story. If he were still with us he would even appreciate it. His ambition was to work construction on the Moon. After graduating with a degree in Physics with a concentration in Astronomy, he did his post graduate work in High Iron construction, building tall buildings and sports stadiums. He eventually worked many seasons in Antarctica where the conditions are nearly as harsh, but that Lunar job never opened up.

    He jump-mastered me on my first static line parachute jump and later introduced me to Hal Clement’s work. At least one of his exploits in Antarctica has been described in print as legendary. I’m sure his sister and many friends would enjoy seeing his name and/or personality in a story. It’s almost enough to make me wish I were a writer.

  24. Rich Rostrom

    It depends on what kind of fiction one is writing. George McDonald Fraser wrote two volumes of short stories, based on his experiences as a junior officer in a Highland battalion in the years immediately after World War II (The General Danced At Dawn and McAuslan in the Rough).

    Years later, he met the now-retired commander of his battalion, who despite Fraser’s best efforts at disguise, was able to identify the real men behind the story characters (even when the character was a composite). None of them had ever complained to Fraser, but none had any reason to.

    On the other hand – one would think that simply using a name which was coincidentally the same as some real person wouldn’t be a problem, but Mark Twain stepped on a land mine when he co-wrote The Gilded Age with its ludicrous central character, originally named Eschol Sellers.

    So we borrowed that name; and when the book had been out about a week, one of the stateliest and handsomest and most aristocratic looking white men that ever lived, called around, with the most formidable libel suit in his pocket that ever–well, in brief, we got his permission to suppress an edition of ten million (Figures taken from memory, and probably incorrect. Think it was more.) copies of the book and change that name to ‘Mulberry Sellers’ in future editions.

  25. > They’re little baby alligators
    Any photos? Also, do they squeak often or only when handled? =)

    >> We all know the disclaimer, “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.”
    >> Yeah, that one. It’s in books for a reason. Does putting this at the beginning of a book keep you from being sued?
    >> Of course not!
    >> There are no magic words that block a lawsuit!
    Lev Gursky has a better one:
    «The author considers it his duty to warn: all events described in the novel are fictional from start to end. The author has no liability for possible random coincidences of names, portraits, names of organizations and population centres, as well as any other cases of unpredictable ingression of pure imagination into reality.»
    Then he starts a murder mystery in Moscow quickly turning into either “where did Stalin hide that one unaccounted-for nuke?!” mystery and goes on to link it with the events of 1991 August Coup, or hunting doppelgangers in the Parliament. :]

  26. Richard E Samson

    I get my characters for free and they’re not based on anyone.

    That’s her story and she’s sticking to it.

  27. As to the alligators….
    Folks around my office have begun referring to “flaming alligators” around the canoe. They did not appreciate it when I asked why the alligators would be in drag………………