1. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    Fiction based on an actual event

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Jaro, Aug 27, 2015.

    So there was a story in the news a couple years ago that I took a HUGE interest in because it was near where my father lived. I followed it in the news, read every artical I could find, and watched every bit of live coverage I could when I could.

    I would like to write a short story on that event, from the 'Suspect's' perspective. It would be purely fictional, but follow the exact time line and specific details of the events that happened.

    Now, this isn't something I would ever dream of publishing or anything like that, outside of posting it for critique as a way of bettering my writing ability. What do you all think of doing something like that? I understand I run the risk of offending someone (which come on, what can you do now a days that doesn't risk offense), but I would like to use this event that I have vast knowledge of, to craft and maybe learn new writing techniques and such.

    If this is something I do start, what label would it fall under? I can't imagine 'Fan Fiction' being the right thing, but that's the closest genre I can think of.
     
  2. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    In both my pro cycling novel and dream project I will be pulling quotes and incidents / events from real life and massaging them into plausibly deniable fiction.

    I'd happily seek publishing for both.

    Urban fiction, perhaps?
     
  3. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    Well, this will be something along the lines of the movie Titanic. You have the ACTUAL event mixed with a storyline that is purely fiction. Though my story will feature the 'suspect' as the MC. All of the events and timeline will fit with the actual event, while dialog, inner monologue, etc will be purely fictional. Almost like I was writing the story as if I had actually been there, and I am using my imagination to fill in the gaps of what I really don't know.
     
  4. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Yep. Exactly what I just wrote.
     
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  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You do run the risk of libelling the "Suspect".

    Even if the "names are changed to protect the innocent", there is still the possibility that the event is sufficiently identifiable that the "Suspect" could argue the it was him whom you were talking about.

    From the fact that you refer to the MC as the "Suspect", I assume that there was no successful prosecution, which would make the libel even more damaging.

    In Titanic, the villains were not - I believe - based on anybody who was on the passenger list, so it's hard to argue that anybody was libelled. I'd liken your story more closely to the film Zulu, where one of the soldiers (Private Henry Hook) - who won a VC - was portrayed as being a drunkard and a criminal. His daughter walked out of the premiere because of this libel. However, I'd assume that in your case, the "Suspect" is still alive to be personally damaged by a libel, and thus more likely to take a more active role in pursuing justice against such a slur.
     
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  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    My first thought was historical fiction. It's a fictional work about fictional characters set in an event that was real. Titanic is historical fiction even though it was romance in the beginning and thriller/survival at the end. Pearl Harbor, for all its ungodly stupid flaws, was historical fiction.

    I'd be careful though. James Cameron ran into trouble with Titanic for the way he portrayed Bruce Ismay (in the movie, he was a greedy coward who dressed as a woman to save his own skin, whereas in real life, he tried to save as many as he could before he was ordered into a lifeboat) and Molly Brown (I dunno how). Their descendants considered this libel against the two and sued him. IIRC, he had to apologize for that.

    Do note that by 1997, Bruce Ismay and Molly Brown were dead. So yes, even if Mr. Suspect has long passed, his descendants might still look at this and consider suing you for how you portrayed him.

    If you're worried, just change the names. If you can't, be as neutral as possible.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If you already know you aren't going to publish it, there is no question of libel (though if you later change your mind, you will need to consult with a literary attorney; do not - repeat, DO NOT take advice on such a complex and potentially damaging issue as libel from this or any other forum). You also don't need to worry about genre, but I assume you are asking more as an academic question.

    You say the event you are portraying occurred "a couple of years ago". So, calling it historical fiction is probably a stretch. Since criminal activity was involved, I would likely call it crime fiction.

    Sounds like an interesting project. Good luck with it.
     
  8. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    I never even considered the 'Libel' part. See, this is why I post things here. Anything I haven't thought of, somebody else has!

    The 'suspect' is dead. Maybe to just save everyone time and curiosity I'll just tell you what the event is (I'm not publishing, so I don't know why I had reservations about it). It happened at the beginning of 2013 in California (USA). The Christopher Dorner Manhunt. For anyone that doesn't know, this guy, an ex Police Officer, tried to whistle-blow on some major police corruption with the LAPD. He was subsequently fired after having his name drug through the mud, and the LAPD did nothing about his allegations. He then sent a manifesto to a news company and went on a killing spree, killing people related to those he felt wronged him. The manhunt for this guy was something seriously out of an action movie. Police officers fired on innocent civilians because they were in vehicles similar to Dorner's. Bad bad stuff that only brought Dorner's allegations more merit. Eventually he was cornered at a cabin in the mountains and completely surrounded. The police fired high heat tear gas canisters into the cabin and it caught the cabin on fire. Dorner then (unless you go for the many conspiracy stories out there) shot himself in the head, and they recovered his body after the entire place burned to the ground.

    So no, he was never prosecuted, but he sent a list of the people he was going to kill in his manifesto. It's pretty clear he is guilty, but he never was in fact prosecuted.


    It is not something I would ever publish, but I would like to post it up in the critiques section on this forum to have my writing critiqued, so it will be publicly displayed.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The Workshop section is for posting segments, not entire works. You may want to use a crit group for this purpose.
     
  10. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    Well what about the short story and Flash Fiction areas? This will be a short story (at least that is a plan), and I want to use this subject that I have somewhat vast knowledge on to develope my writing skills.
     
  11. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    For me 1500 words is close to the limit of what I want to read in one hit for the purposes of comment.

    Beta readers are what you are looking for, not posting an entire novella here, IMO. I'd suggest posting a 1500 extract and if you can attract beta readers, go from there. If not, you will find out soon enough.
     
  12. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    Sigh... I'm not writing a novella. I'm not looking to get this published. I'm looking to improve my writing. Which is exactly what the critique area is for, correct? My question is about the subject matter. I just wasn't sure what the taboos were on that.
     
  13. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Sigh. Your "short story" description does not indicate word count. I feel my post added useful content.

    Novellas and short stories are interchangeable in my mind. My mistake.
     
  14. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    Again, that has nothing to do with what I was asking. I never once asked how long of a snippet I should post. I never asked about posting a novel, novella, chapter, or anything like that.
     
  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    But you did say you were going to post it here.

    I was the first person to respond to your OP questions. Now I am responding to your intended actions with said piece.

    I'll stop now, you're clearly not interested in what a potential reader feels regarding word count in the workshop. I apologise.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2015
  16. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Unless it's a particularly short story, or flash fiction, you're not going to see much response from people in the critique area in posting the entire thing. It would make sense to simply write the whole thing as an exercise and post a mere except.
     
  17. Capricorn42
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    Capricorn42 Member

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    Ignoring the issues of where and how much to post, i think you have a purely moral dilemma here when trying to make fiction out of a recent and very human tragedy. It doesn't matter that you won't try and publish. It does matter that in writing the piece you will set yourself up as judge and jury, you can't avoid that. Personally i wouldn't attempt this at all. I might create a story based on this, but i would not try to document real events or people. This isn't ancient history, it's news.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Posting a segment for critique would not be a problem, since a libel claim has to show that the person suffered from the portrayal, and a members-only forum would certainly rule that out. That said, if you really want the entire piece evaluated, I would still recommend a crit group. You can also post in the Collaborations section looking for beta readers.
     

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