1. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Ethics of using real atrocities as a basis for fiction.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Shbooblie, Aug 15, 2015.

    I am in a bit of a quandary with a plot point of my story at the minute. I am writing a fictional memoir, my MC is living in the Czech Republic and lost his family in tragic circumstances, that much I am certain I wanted to include. As it is being written as though it is a true story, I wanted to include a real event as the reason for his bereavement, however this is where I get a bit unsure on what direction to take it in.

    My first thought was that he could have lived in a Czech village during WW2 as a number of villages were decimated and burnt to the ground. I know I want him to return to his home to witness some sort devastation and finality, as in his family couldn't have just moved away or anything, so to set it here seems the easiest option.

    The only thing is, I feel a bit exploitative using real atrocities like this to drive my story, I know it's been done before for example in The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, but something about it doesn't sit well with me.

    Am I being overly sensitive about this or is it a bit of a tricky issue?
     
  2. WriterodLife1994
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    WriterodLife1994 Member

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    It can be a tricky issue, one the one hand, we don't want to belittle or make fun of, or disrespect the situation in any way, on the other, these kinds of stories need to be told. I would say, do your research and make sure you do it justice.
     
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  3. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Thanks @WriterodLife1994 . If I handle it delicately and sensitively and most of all I think maturely, then I may be able to make it work. I'll try my best.
     
  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it's okay for Speilberg...

    All I'd say is that you avoid going down the exploitative route.
     
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  5. VioletKnight
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    VioletKnight Member

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    There's nothing unethical about using real life tragedies in fiction, any more than real life non-tragic events. They are events that happened in the real world that everyone is capable of understanding and knowing about. It's just another way to write a story.
     
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  6. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the input guys. I think my main concern is that the characters story is not specifically about the atrocity he's been through, more that he just happened to have survived it and has to carry that guilt and loss with him throughout his life. Therefore, I could have picked any atrocity or made one up but the real life one I've been researching fit into my story quite well.
    I talked it over with my partner and at first he was saying maybe to make a one up but I told him basically my whole plot and he agreed that it wasn't a bad thing to include it as the story didn't seem to be making light of it in any way. Another thing was that he wasn't aware of the events that happened to the Czech people in WW2 and neither was I before researching, including it in my story could be an opportunity to make more people aware of it so their suffering doesn't get forgotten.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I see nothing but good coming from this approach, as long as you do your research well. If all works of fiction avoided dealing with real atrocities, we wouldn't have much to read, would we?
     
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  8. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Thank you @jannert, that is true
     
  9. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    There's nothing ethically wrong with using a real event as a back drop to your novel. I've read plenty of stories that did this effectively. WW2 events are quite often depicted in fiction. 9/11 has been a common theme in recent novels.
     
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  10. Cappy and Pegody
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    Cappy and Pegody Member

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    What you are referring to is a style I dubbed historical fiction. I consider it one of my favorite genres Where fictional characters move through historical settings. One of my favorite examples of this is Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series, where his fictitious characters move through the historic period of tall ships and real historic characters. ve a masterful story leaving his readers morning his death and the end of the saga.
     

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