1. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    Including real people and events in fiction.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NecessaryPain, Jun 22, 2011.

    Hi guys.

    My name is Dan and i'm from the UK. I am new to writing and have some good ideas in terms of where my plot is going. However, at 15,000 words in, I am struggling to pull the trigger on where I want to set the stage for my novel. I should have planned this first, maybe, but I started to write and just went with the flow. :)

    I am positive that it will take place in North America. I am using Detectives and Police Departments etc (it's a crime novel/thriller) but as to where specifically, i'm not sure yet. It will not be set in New York due to the popularity of the City and the already staggering amounts of crime shows/books and stories being told there.

    I'm thinking Chigago, and want to make it as authentic as I can. However, at the same time, I want to briefly use past events and criminals and people who have lived in Chigago (or another City) to tell my story. My question for you guys is: How far can I go?

    I have tried to do a search in regards to including real people/events in fiction, but I cannot specifically find what i'm looking for. Am I allowed (legally) to manipulate past events, or show people in a certain light? (this will be criminals, mostly, ie - people already in a bad light) Or is this considered immoral to do so?

    I would like my work to blend between mostly fiction, but also offer some real-life viewpoints on the side.

    For an example, if I used Al Capone as one of the criminals in my work, could I, basically, do whatever I want with his character?

    Any tips or help in regards to this matter would be greatly appreciated. Also throw in some relatively large cities for me to use for my work! My mind is not 100 percent set on Chicago. But I am reading a lot on police procedures and protocols, and North America is defintely the route I am going to take.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    When I was in Chicago last year, I bought a coffee mug with a silhouette of Al Capone and the inscription, "Big Al's Speakeasy". So, I think you have some room to work. Lots of novels incorporate historically real people. My advice would be to stay as close as possible to the historical person as (s)he was known to be, for the sake of credibility. Even in this, you may have some latitude, as in the novel "Terrible Angel", which was about the Irish revolutionary Michael Collins coming back 70 years after his death to gain his own redemption by helping someone else.

    If you use real people who are still living, you have some room as long as they are a public figure.

    Other cities to consider for a crime drama might be Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Oakland (across the bay from San Francisco) and Baltimore.
     
  3. NecessaryPain
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    Thanks for the advice! :)

    Random question, but does anyone know if one of those cities (Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago etc) are relatively close to a large and somewhat famous forest?

    I have a large forest in the first chapter of my work, you see. And I wrote it with the city being its neighbor, and a large-ish police department in mind.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's done all the time... as long as the people you include are/were public figures, there's no legal problem, unless you make good folks into bad ones in your story...

    there are no 'famous' forests near those cities... you can utilize google maps to find a suitable city with a nearby forest, but in the us, while there are certainly many forested areas, there's not really anything as world famous as 'sherwood forest' or 'arden' and such, as there is in england, thanks to english literature...

    this should help you zero in on what you need: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._National_Forests
     
  5. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    Much appreciated!

    I suppose it doesn't have to be a famous forest. Somewhere that isn't regularly frequented by humans will do. Weather being average (not too cold in the winter) and yet large enough to have a good portion of forest layers and local wilderness.

    The forest must absolutely tie-in to one of those cities juristictions. Being Homicide, of course. I want to use the city police department and not the state police.

    I just hope i've not dug myself into a hole. This might be trickier than i'd first anticipated!

    I'll have a scan through that link for the time being. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to comment. :)
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    What somebody in Alaska thinks of as "average" weather probably isn't the same as for somebody from Florida. Not too cold for what? Get yourself a climate map and look at that alongside the list of national forests that has already been posted. And you can give yourself some leeway in terms of how far it is from your city. Remember the old saying: "Americans think a hundred years is a long time. The British think a hundred miles is a long way." The scale of the country, coupled with cheap(ish) fuel means that an American is likely to consider a much larger radius to be "nearby" than is their British counterpart.
     
  7. NecessaryPain
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    Spent most of the day trying to find the right forest. I first considered Angeles Forest which is just North of Downtown LA. It's big enough but far too frequented and well-known to get away with the stuff i'm writing about.

    I need a forest that can offer me the following:

    - Is near a large city and thus falls under City Police juristiction.
    - Is large and discreet enough for a small group of people to shoot at targets, without being noticed.
    - Is large enough to become totally lost in.
    - Weather being icy, but not too cold in the Winter. Only hints of snow, but to stay mainly bright during the winter months.
    - A forest where you can get away with building a shelter/cabin, make it a second home, and not get caught.

    This probably fits a very, very small window and might not even be feasible considering the context. My story is based on a old man teaching young boys how to shoot, and how to kill. There is a Detective side of the story as well, which is why it is important for me to find a location that houses a strong and well-respected Police Department.

    If anyone has even the faintest idea, then please make a comment. Thanks.
     
  8. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    Okay, brain-wave, what is the best way to avoid real-life locations as a fiction writer? Would it be insulting to base my novel in Detroit, for example, and then create entirely fictional places within the City? Would it work to have a blend of both real-life and fictional locations, street names, forests, buildings etc etc?

    I know that even if I do find the perfect location, I am going to struggle eventually with accurately portraying the location.

    So could I just pick a Police Department in any City, and then invent my own places within?

    Any advice on that?
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...you won't find any like that... cities are, by definition and fact, urban areas... and forests such as you want to use in your story are wilderness areas... so policing forests and cities present two very different sets of problems and the city government and police force couldn't have jurisdiction over a forest, nor would it be effective for them to...

    even in alaska, where a forest may adjoin a city, the city police force wouldn't have jurisdiction in it, since it would come under the federal forest ranger system...

    ...see above...
    ...ditto...
    ...unless the 'forest' consists mainly of deciduous trees [which most don't], it wouldn't be 'bright' in any season, since in a heavily pine-wooded area, the sun doesn't reach the ground much...

    ...ditto the ditto...

    ...sorry, but you've chosen a plot element that's impossible in real life... why do you have to have city police operating in a forest?...

    ...even if you fudge with reality, as you're asking about immediately above, it wouldn't make any sense whatsoever to have city police policing a forest...
     
  10. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    Perhaps I should have expanded on the plot.

    There are dead bodies in the forest. I need the lead Detective to have his attention drawn to those dead bodies. In terms of juristiction, I guess it has to be possible, right?

    Perhaps if I link the bodies to other bodies that have been found in the nearby city. ie - bodies dropped from the same killer. If I make the connection, would that work?

    It needs to be a City Detective purely because the story is told through his eyes, AND the eyes of the killer.
     
  11. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    No, it isn't federal jurisdiction if it's a state park. Then it depends on what county it's in.

    Near Atlanta [I live an hour and a half away] there are three state parks and forests nearby.

    There is Roosevelt State Park near LaGrange, it's big and quite woodsy, with many different hiking paths. There are some easy ones close to the campsites, and then there are many more difficult paths that go into remote areas.
    http://www.gastateparks.org/FDRoosevelt

    There is also Chewacla State Park in Alabama, and is about an hour and a half from Atlanta. I go to this place at least 4-5 times a year. It's wonderful, with different variations. It's in a large forest, since Alabama has the most trees per acerage than any state, even Alaska because of the variety and how tightly packed together they are. Not to mention the state has a law that requires timbermen to plant 2 trees for every one they cut down for timber. There is a gorgeous waterfall here, a lake, acres upon acres of woods, and a mysterious limestone quarry that was abandoned at one point. Now limestone is valuable commodity with the bad economy, and it's active again.
    http://www.alapark.com/chewacla/

    It's remote enough for college students to sneak in there to smoke pot sometimes, but they are caught by the determined rangers that actually hike the trails at night. But they can only go so deep in the forest at dark.

    There is also Tuskeegee National Forest, although I do not know much about it, nor is it a state park. So I don't know if it fits the parameters of local police.

    The Southeastern US is weird. You have a cluster of big cities, then as soon as you move out it's rural. The suburbs are even rural. The county I grew up in near Mobile Bay is as large as the state of Rhode Island, and has a mixture of towns and a beach city, but you just go 2 miles down a county road and BAM, forests, farmlands, and cow-calf cattle establishments.


    I'm sure if a murder happened in these forests, the FBI would eventually get involved. I'm not sure who holds jurisdiction over these [Atlanta's city lines are somewhat vague, since it makes up half the state of Georgia], but if it was more than one person they'd definitely be involved with it. Or some sort of state investigators. Often different counties' police and investigation departments team up if the murder is in a hazy jurisdiction, or if it's a dangerous situation with lives at stake. I'm sure you can just email them and ask what police have jurisdiction over the park if a crime occurs.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, there are state and county parks, as well as federal... my point was only that a forest area could not possibly be covered by city police, but would be under some other governmental entity's jurisdiction...
     
  13. Faust
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    Faust Contributing Member Supporter

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    Given your specific requirements, your best bet to have this be as factual as possible is to have your detective work with a governmental agency like the FBI (As they usually do step into this situations)

    As for the location, this can be a bit trickier, but your detective could be based in Chicago and through his FBI contact travel to said wooded location, which could be a bit father away. Not to mention but the constant traveling back and forth between both locations could become a bit of a plot device in and of itself if you want it to be. Given that I live in Southern Michigan and find myself familiar with some of the area, I can't really think of any large forests that would be near a major city. :/
     
  14. NecessaryPain
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    Thanks for the comments guys!

    I suppose I am in a rut here without bending the rules.

    I really want to make sure the Detective stays with the Department. Perhaps I could introduce the FBI first, and then bring the Detective towards the scene. Let's say the detective has worked a very similar murder in the past. This could be an incentive to make the connection. (as Faust might be implying)

    The murders are in fact 2 straight-up executions to young boys/children. Rifle bullets through both heads, bodies abandonded in the middle of nowhere.

    I have no problem with bending certain juristictions, but I do want to keep the police procedurals somewhat authentic.

    Would it be acceptible (to you guys, I am asking) to include a real city, such as Chigaco etc, and then completely invent certain names and places within? I find this would probably be the best way to go about telling the story, so I can invent my own world and not have to rely on the authenticity of the location.

    I suppose I could make the leading man an actual FBI agent, but that would go against what I am researching at the moment and is not really a route I intend to go down.

    If it helps, I am finished with the forest location after Chapter one. So if I can get this right, I won't have to worry about it later on in the story.
     
  15. Ashrynn
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    I'm writing another short story right now and I won't get too deep into it, but the two character's will be stuck on an island for such and such reason.

    One of them makes a reference to cannibalism and Lord of the Flies. Here is a quick snippet, it's off the spot as I haven't really written it out yet.

    "No, you should stay here and I'll get us some fire-wood. Besides if you work out too much than you won't have all that tender flesh for when I decide to eat you!" Beth grinned as she flashed her teeth before laughing at her own bad joke. "Just kidding, you wouldn't taste that good without any seasonings."

    "I'll give it another week before that joke begins to worry me." Jessica responded chuckling, still a little flustered.

    "By then I'm pretty sure it'll turn into 'Lord of the Flies' and we'll start killing each other off." Beth responded before turning and making her way towards an opening in the palm trees.

    "I think we'd need more people for that" Jessica shouted back in response, turning her head as she watched Beth dissapear into the forest behind her. "Well, if it's just us than we'll be alright." She muttered to herself before setting her amber eyes back to the ocean before her.
     
  16. thewordsmith
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    The problem with using a major metro area in the U.S. as your subject city is, if it's a large, internationally recognized city, it got that way by attracting business. Business attracts workers. Workers beget construction and any beautifully forested areas that once were, are no more.

    New York City might fill the bill for you. Central Park New York has many heavily wooded areas which may suffice your needs and, being in the center of Manhattan, would definitely fall under the jurisdiction of the NYPD. The only problem with that is that bodies are dumped there far too regularly.

    Another thing to note is that Dillinger, Capone, etc. often frequented smaller, out of the way places. Central and South Central Indiana held many favorite stomping grounds where the illicitly wealthy liked to throw their money around. West Baden Springs and nearby French Lick, Indiana is one such area where both of the aforementioned spent a lot of time. These locales were known for their casinos and uber elegant hotels and they attracted all of the highest rollers. Also, Jeffersonville, Indiana across from Louisville, Kentucky was a favorite stop for their greyhound racetracks and casinos. (Before bridges linked the town to its bigger cousin across the river in Kentucky, couples would take a ferry boat to Indiana to get married by the local JP. Until well into the 1900s, Jeffersonville was known as 'Little Vegas' for its abundance of gambling and quickie marriages and divorces!)
    A judicious study of these areas will turn up quite a bit of heavily wooded areas. Most within these city jurisdictions. Nashville, Indiana, now a sleepy little hamlet nestled in the middle of the Brown County Forestry, was once a hot spot for the likes of Capone and Dillinger ... and Eliot Ness was known to have visited this place as often for R&R as for tracking down federally wanted criminals.

    And of course we cannot ignore Louisville, Kentucky which still lays home to one of the foremost thorobred race tracks anywhere. At one time, Churchill Downs was only one of many race tracks in the city of Louisville. And, aside from the horses and casinos, Louisville was home to several of the best distilleries in America. They also proudly claim many large and well-forested parks within the city limits and under the Louisville Metro Police Department jurisdiction.

    The San Francisco/Oakland area might not be so good if you need a wooded area but, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Fran you will find Sausalito and Mt. Tamalpais. This area has quite a wealth of treed land. (San Francisco's only wooded area is within the Presidio which is federal property and, therefor, would not fall under local jurisdiction.)

    Just a few observations. Hope you find something among my ramblings that helps.
     
  17. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does your story have to be set in America? Seeing as you live in the UK you know alot more about it. Maybe use the UK instead? :p I feel like Nottingham would fit your description quite well!

    Also Mammamaia you really like using your ellipsis :p
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    dd...
    it serves my purpose... since i'm posting copiously on 3 writing sites daily and replying to email all day long and adding notes to mentees' material for most of every single day, my simplified method saves me much time, makes typing much easier...
     
  19. NecessaryPain
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    Brilliant post, thank you for the recommendations, I will check all of these areas out. New York may very be a good destination after all!



    I have more of an interest in American crime and Detectives etc. This has probably been influenced by the large amount of TV shows and films regarding crime. In terms of the UK, I don't particularly like living here, and i'm not really interested in our own police force. America gives me far more angles to choose from and on a much broader scale.

    I am also reading up on american police procedures and forensic sciences, and want to put that knowledge to good use. Cops in America use firearms. We often don't. That is a very large incentive right there. Guns will play a huge part in my story.
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    What about Redwood Forest, or am I missing something here?

    It must be very well known, since I've heard about it and I've never set foot in the U.S. of A.
     
  21. NecessaryPain
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    Some beautiful pictures in that forest. Would seem ideal with what i've wrote so far. I need to make the City Police connection though.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there are redwood forests in the us, but there is no wooded area officially known as 'the redwood forest'... there is the 'redwood national and state parks' in northern california, but that area is not adjacent to any major city and is policed by the national and state parks' own forces, could not possibly have any city police connection...
     

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