1. Uncle Arnie
    Offline

    Uncle Arnie New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    real story but should I publish as true or fictionalise it?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Uncle Arnie, Sep 3, 2012.

    I have always felt I have a book inside me but couldn't find a story line that I could do justice to ... until recently.

    I have been embroiled in a rather silly dispute with neighbours for the last 18 months based around my wanting to live a more sustainable lifestyle. The reactions and comments have given me so much ammunition that last winter I mentioned to friends that "I could write a book about this" so they said "why not?".

    So to my first question: should I publish it as a true account in a diary style, given that everything I refer to (ie neighbours' comments and complaints) are in the public domain or should I change the names to protect myself (and the not so innocent)?

    I've got about half the story written out in a skeleton story and it is about 15,000 words already and I have probably about 50k words left assuming there is no more nonsense. Is this too long for a story of this type?
     
  2. ...
    Offline

    ... Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    2
    Fiction would be better. I think you have to get other's permission for true accounts about things. You must also be careful not to make it too obvious who you are writing about.
    are you thinking of a farce type book in Tom Sharpe style?

    Whatever, my personal opinion, is that you should fictionalise it as much as possible.

    stories usually run a minimum of 100000 words... to be classed as a novel anyway. that's what I always assumed but I could be wrong.
     
  3. GHarrison
    Offline

    GHarrison Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    Sounds like you have an interesting back story for a fictional character, or, for a pair of neighbors. That could be an interesting aspect of a short story, or a novel even, but I tend to think a simple telling of the facts as they are would be a bit boring. Unless, of course, the details are perticularly compelling, funny, or outright weird.

    Feuding neighbor stories can be hilarious, and relatable. Also, the sustainable lifestyle bit is a nice current twist.

    Good luck,
     
  4. ...
    Offline

    ... Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    2
    yeah reminds me of that show... Ever Decreasing Circles. I think the world is ready for a modern version.
     
  5. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Not sure what you mean by your neighbor's complaints being in the public domain. Did they blog about it or write a letter to the editor? Because if they were only private conversations with you, that's not public domain. And I would definitely fictionalize it, unless you want all kinds of legal issues coming at you. Making a private quarrel public isn't the greatest idea for peace of mind or pocketbook.

    I've seen "definitions" of novels ranging anywhere from 80k to over 150k. Get it written first, worry about word count later.
     
  6. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    It sounds like the old sitcom The Good Life! Aside from the legal aspect, I think it would just be much more appealing as a fictionalised story.
     
  7. ...
    Offline

    ... Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    2
    that's the one I was trying to think of... what was Ever Decreasing Circles then?

    agh! i'm going to have to google it now.

    ah i see, Ever Decreasing Circles had the same characters from The Good Life.
     
  8. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    you seem to be confused as to what 'public domain' means... i suggest you look it up...

    as for writing about other people, what they did and what they said, if you do so, you will be at great risk of being sued... especially since it sounds like they don't like you very much to begin with...

    and even if you fictionalize the events and the characters, if they or anyone who knows them can recognize them, you can still be sued for invasion of privacy and assorted other civil torts...

    you should be consulting a literary attorney for advice on this, not well-meaning members of a writing site... to not do so is foolish in the extreme...

    in re length, most publishers want 80-100k for a novel by a new and unknown writer... but unless you want to have your nasty neighbors wiping you out in a lawsuit, hie thee to an attorney before you write a single word about 'em!
     
  9. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    First, I agree with everything Mammamaia said. You are new to the board, but if you stick around, you will find she is wise in the ways of writing and publishing, and the pitfalls that lie therein.

    Second, I would note that what seems overwhelmingly important to you may seem considerably less so to others. I'm not sure what "a more sustainable lifestyle" means, and I'm not asking, but I would bet that it involves something that you think is positive but your neighbors have reason to find objectionable, like having your own, very large, very smelly compost heap. Having been an unwilling party to neighbor disputes, I'm aware of how petty they can become. An objective reader might well conclude that your conflict was much ado about nothing; also, some might even conclude you were in the wrong.

    Third, your estimated word count is well shy of what one would expect for a novel, and your comment "assuming there is no more nonsense" suggests that the end of the story has not yet been reached. Both of these are bad signs for a prospective work of fiction.

    If you get sound legal advice that you are safe to proceed with a non-fictional account, you may want to shop a proposal around before finishing the work. Fictionalizing strikes me as a much better idea, but if you do that, you will have to change much more than the names and places for all the reasons mamma pointed out above as well as making it a better story. I would strongly recommend that if you do fictionalize it, you make something other than your conflict the central focus of the story and make your conflict either a component of the main plot or make it a subplot.
     
  10. Uncle Arnie
    Offline

    Uncle Arnie New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Remembering I am in Scotland not the USA nor England, what constitutes "public domain" differs. (note: I have taken some limited legal advice) During the process of applying to the local authority for Planning Permission, comments and objections are invited from neighbours and the public alike. These are published on the Local Authority's website and are publicly viewable without needing to register or log on. This is the very definition of public domain! It is as if they had made the comments at a public meeting.

    The story is almost banal; home owner with a big field applies for the various permits to erect a small household wind turbine, solar panels and plant willow trees to grow for wood fuel. Only one person would be able to see everything but from about a mile away and is a very angry man who keeps his gate locked and speaks to almost no one. He then start a campaign to complain about everything and anything that I do including parking my own cars in my own driveway. His complaints are all investigated and found to be vexatious so he gets everyone else in the 'neighbourhood' ( 5 houses spread over 2 miles of road) to complain also. The complaints themselves and my response to them along with the actions of a couple of people provide the humour. The story combines an evaluation of what it means to be 'green' without being an activist, the realities of the politics and economics of local environmentalism, not to mention the pressures of being Mr Unpopular amongst the Unreasonable.

    The story has a while to run yet as I have yet to obtain all the permits (the main one is due an imminent decision) and should I receive them there may be a reaction that gives me yet another chapter.

    I love the idea of making it a Wilt-esque farce - I could really work on a few of the characters!

    Thanks for the advice
     
  11. Uncle Arnie
    Offline

    Uncle Arnie New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    More great advice. Thanks.
     
  12. Zack Winchester
    Offline

    Zack Winchester Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2011
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    What I would do is to fictionalise it. To change the names and even change the events in the story a little bit from the real ones. People often get offended easily. And they could get angry if they even suspect somebody is writing somebody about them.
     
  13. DanesDarkLand
    Offline

    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    How about A Sustainable Life and the Bumpy Road to Get There? Have you ever read the Tightwad Gazette? Could always do it in an article format, and each event on your "Bumpy Road" would have its own article, including the legal woes and decisions associated with it. Don't take this as advice that you should write it. Mama was correct in stating legal advice is preferable to a forum's advice. It can be considered advice on how to write it. Its your story. Cover your Anatomy.
     
  14. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,374
    Likes Received:
    311
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi,

    Your decision. But my thought is that unless you can nail down everything that was said or done by your neighbours with physical copies of some sort, than fictionalise it. Remember, there are two main defences to charges of defamation. The first is that they are true. So it may be true that your neighbour opposed your plans, but not that his parents never married.

    The second is that what was written about him was so obviously improbable that no reasonable man could believe them true of him. Or that he was the person written of. But if you go for an actual account, this defence is gone.

    There may be other defences. My advice, given that this is an actual event, get legal advice regardless of whether you make it a true style book or a fictional novel. In both cases he could find out about it, presumably even if he doesn't read it he has friends who did, and come back at you.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  15. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    I think, if you do write this story as non-fiction; then be prepared for when the ---- hits the fan.

    Even as a fictional story, you will need to watch your Ps and Qs if you don't want any agro.

    Personally, I don't think it is a good idea - I'd forget it.
     
  16. maidahl
    Offline

    maidahl Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2012
    Messages:
    332
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    I'mscared
    Is this book your dream? Talk about it aloud. Talk to people about it. Don't type it on a forum. Does this dream book sound plausible? Are you a queen in your head when you are alone with a best-selling hit? I'm being real. I know enough to know that I don't know what I'm doing.

    I used to want to be the tooth-fairy. My brother used to want to be a man-in-black. Now, I don't talk about writing books anymore. Just be careful. I'm only saying this because you are talking about a lifestyle improvement. UGh

    People who say "why not" are people who want to trip you and watch you fall over. Sometimes. ;)

    They are like people who loved their dream school and love their loyal wife and love their "THE JOB".

    P.S. Good luck.
     
  17. Evil Loves to Party
    Offline

    Evil Loves to Party New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2012
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would definitely fictionalize it. If the people involved become upset, you could have a legal matter on your hands. And from the sound of it, they don't exactly like you...so don't give them any reason to sue you.

    Fictionalizing it also gives you the opportunity to make it even funnier than it already is. You can create exaggerated characters, make the personalities of your characters even funnier or worse than they actually are, and insert new jokes. It just seems like you'd have more freedom and can make the fiction 10 times better than the reality.

    So you could just use the actual events as a skeleton, and build a whole rich fiction world over it. Good luck.

    Oh, and don't listen to the people who are telling you it isn't a good idea. Opinions on that vary...I think it really depends on what angle you decide to take on it. People who have a similar struggle and want to be eco-friendly in a world of people who aren't can definitely relate, so you have a niche.

    I actually really like the idea, but I suppose that's because I identify with it. I'd have my entire house and car run on solar panels if I could. I only eat organic, preferably raw. And I have friends and family who find some of my practices in the name of eco-friendliness/natural living strange, so I can partially relate. Like I said, there's a niche and target market for this.
     
  18. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Your question has to do so much with how you feel about this story you want to tell, and I don't think you can really find the answer on a forum. You need to really think about what story you want to share, why you want to share it, what you feel it says, and the best way to do that. This certainly does give you some great potential fodder for fiction, although not really knowing enough about the specifics of the situation, I can't say whether the neighbor dispute is enough to serve as the main plot or conflict for a novel.

    But there is a potential market for this to be a nonfiction account as well. Of course, you would need to take certain precautions -- changing the names of the neighbors, etc., and making absolutely certain that statements you attribute to them are true statements you can prove. You can still write a nonfiction account, but indicate that you've changed names and maybe even made some composite characters. If the focus is on you and your efforts to create a sustainable lifestyle, and you may even poke fun at yourself and discuss all the trials and tribulations you've encountered, and how much harder it is than you expected, and the neighbor dispute is just a part (even if it's a major part) of your struggle to do what you thought was the "right" thing to do, that could be a great nonfiction story.

    So even though everyone says to fictionalize it, and it does make it easier in some respects to make it a completely fictional account, that doesn't mean you necessarily have to do so. If everything you write is true, you're not smearing the neighbors, and you're putting the emphasis on you and your thoughts and your experience (as opposed to writing an account of how awful the neighbors are), that can definitely be done.

    You have to decide what it is that you want to write.
     
  19. Uncle Arnie
    Offline

    Uncle Arnie New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    more great replies.

    I've spoken with a lawyer and an agent and they are both very supportive of my idea either as fiction or non-fiction. The lawyer explained that because I am in Scotland and the situation was here, then I would have to be sued in Scotland for defamation, however it is has to be shown that my comments are untrue for them to have a case. Just because someone does not like what is written about them does not mean they are being defamed. The idea that one can make silly comments in public yet still not leave oneself open to ridicule is itself ridiculous add in the [mildly] insulting language and insinuations made, again, in public by the main characters and their claims to defamation weaken further.

    The Agent's comments were more interesting. As a story about a middle class, middle of the road, fence sitter who chooses to make his life more ecologically sustainable yet is still a 4x4 driving, anthropogenic global warming skeptic carnivore it is very commercial and even more so as non-fiction.

    I love the idea of an exaggerated farcical work of fiction but I also have a message I want to get across: there is a middle road for renewable energy away from the evangelical posturing of all the politicians and normal busy, financially pressured people can do their bit economically and quietly. A message that is too easily lost in the farce of horse killing wind turbines, vanishing badgers and French nuclear engineers who think 3x11=66

    I am thinking of working part time for 3 months early next year to write a first draft (I run my own small business) as much to get the whole sorry affair out my system as actually have something to publish and maybe I'll let my fingers make the decision as to whether it is fiction or not.

    Again, thanks for your input.
     

Share This Page