1. L_W
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    L_W New Member

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    Legalities of using real (deceased) characters....

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by L_W, Feb 28, 2015.

    Sorry if this isn't the right forum for this question (I'm new to the forum).

    What are the legalities of writing about real people in a fictional story? The people I am using are all asylum patients around 1860. This information is now open to the public, but I'm unsure if I will get into trouble if I use them in my story. I have accessed this information from an archive office. If it's public information, am I allowed to do this?

    Thanks in advance.
    L
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Interesting question. My first thought was contacting the descendants if possible as they would probably appreciate knowing you plan to write about their ancestors.
     
  3. L_W
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    L_W New Member

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    I wouldn't know how to in all honesty! It's been hard enough trying to find my family tree. However, I have thought about what you've said myself, just the logistics of doing so would be a nightmare :)
     
  4. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    Unless they were famous, what's the difference between using a real person and a character influenced by a real person? It just seems easier to make up someone.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would assume it would be okay, mostly because I can't think of anyone who'd have standing to sue you for it...

    Maybe if you were drawing connections to living people, you'd have to worry about writing something that might be seen as defamatory to the living person? But that's a pretty big stretch.

    Historical fiction uses real dead people all the time - I don't think there would be a distinction just because these dead people weren't famous...

    These are just random thoughts. IANAL.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @Renee J - I don't see any benefit to using a real person whom no one knows. I suspect you want to be as authentic as possible, and the authenticity will flow from your accurate portrayal of what would have befallen a typical inmate of asylums at that time.

    When historical persons are used in fiction, it is based upon recorded historical events that students of history can easily recognize. This lends the work an added sense of authenticity while at the same time lending insight into the life and times of the historical person. But with an unknown person, there is no way for the modern reader to gain any additional insight just from reading the person's name.
     
    Renee J and outsider like this.

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