Tags:
  1. MacGuffin
    Offline

    MacGuffin Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    1

    the use of a real event in a story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MacGuffin, Aug 29, 2009.

    hello,

    in the story I am writing I am basically winding my characters and plot around what really happned during world war 2. I am using real life as much as possible as an anchor for the crazy stuff that happens and as such am going right in there for historical accuracy.

    There are a number of events that happened during the blitz which really tie in with the journey's my characters take and I want to tie them in with thes events.

    NOW

    Where would I stand in using these real events in my story. I mean in a legal as well as 'decent' sense.

    From my point of view using events during the Blitz of London would be ok as there were thousands of bombings and deaths...

    BUT later I want to use a more specfic event which happened in a small town in Wales not far from where I was brought up.

    Now this is a lot more specific so could perhaps be more problematic.

    So how far can I or should I use this exact case?

    Should I use the exact name of the town and the exact date but use different peoples name? (I think this is the most suitable option, but again would this offend the relatives of the people who died by basically 'rewriting' history)

    Or should I use everything exactly as history tells us? (bit close to the bone maybe?)

    Or should I make up a name and date but base it on what happened there?

    Sorry if the answer should be obvious!
     
  2. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ...you can use the real town name, and even write about real people, but if you use real people's names, you can be in trouble with them, or surviving family members, if they don't like what you say about them...

    there's never just one version of 'history' so there's no 'exactly' for you to use...

    that's done all the time... but so is using real events/dates/names... however, since what you're writing is a novel and not non-fiction, you need to be very careful with how you depict real people and events... the people and/or their relatives can sue and fudging well-know events can get you laughed at and your book dismissed as not worth publishing/reading...

    in re people, that only applies to ordinary, private folk, of course... the public/famous/infamous can be and often are fiddled with in fiction and since they are public figures, as long as you don't have them doing things that are immoral/illegal that they didn't do in real life, you'll be fairly safe...

    sorry that's not as cut and dried as you may have hoped for, but it's the best i can give you... for more detailed and official info, you'll have to consult a literary attorney...

    love and hugs, maia

    ps:

    even if you change names and dates, if people can recognize themselves and/or others can recognize them from your depiction, you can still be sued for invasion of privacy, libel, and a slew of other bothersome and costly charges, if what you write is offensive and can be proven to be untrue... and the burden of proof will be on you, not them... in other words, they don't have to prove they didn't do this or that, while you will have to prove they did...
     
  3. Operaghost
    Offline

    Operaghost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    0
    It has already been mentioned but jsut be careful if using real characters, It is fine if a well known historical figure, that you can get lots of information about as you can portray them in similar ways to what people already expect, but the problem comes if you decide to portry tehm differently or choose characters that people don't knwo much about and defame theri character in some way. The best way to go about this woudl be to stick with fictional characters as much as possible. Asfor the event, it is fine to use the actual event, after all it really happened and several stories and films have focused on real events with fictional characters, (there was a big film some years back about some ship that sunk or something) however this also needs caution that you don't change facts too much, A little artistic lisence here and there can be forgivven ( most peopel noticed but very few complained about the historical inaccuricies in Braveheart) but donl;t cahnge it completely as there could be issues, Take for example the controversy over the film U571 which had the audacity to suggest that teh Americans and not the british captured the Enigma machine (despite the fact that the story makes it clear this is just one of many machines that have been captured so could easily be a different mission)
     
  4. tcol4417
    Offline

    tcol4417 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Sydney, AU
    The more time that has passed since it happened, the easier it is.

    Some people will nag you about historical accuracy.
    Some people will get cut because you're dramatising/trivialising elements that they find offensive
    Some people will just say you're being uncreative

    You can't please everyone though, so go for it =P
     
  5. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    If it's about WW2 then there will be people who are related to the real people and remember the events you want to refer to, so yes, you'll have to be careful.

    For example, the Titanic movie caused major distress with its (wrongful) showing of a particular officer (identified by the ranking on his uniform) drawing a handgun and shooting passengers in a very uncontrolled way and the family sued... and that was even further back in history.

    Atonement (novel and movie) used a flooding event in a tube station to have the MC killed there, using a real event very successfully.
     
  6. Gallowglass
    Offline

    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Messages:
    1,617
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Loch na Seilg, Alba
    Someone mentioned Braveheart? I wouldn't do the same thing as that, if I were you, because that's almost entirely fantasy - if you attempt to claim that it is even a relatively accurate portrayal of major events in history, then the amount of crap you'll get from the public will be immense. Braveheart never claimed to be anywhere near historically accurate, as far as I'm aware, so as long as you don't do that you can write anything - provided no-one related to the real people actually cares about how you portray them!

    If you're writing about World War Two, you need to be careful. I need to be careful, although I'm writing about things that happened in the 1400s (but I'm dealing with one of the most famous noble families in the world). But with World War Two, it might not just be relatives of the people you're writing about - it might even be the people themselves. Check that, first, and if it's okay then you need to go forwards, reading what you write and making sure it isn't offensive.

    If it is, delete it, or find proof that it happened.
     
  7. fandango
    Offline

    fandango Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2009
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    0
    It all depends on the context.
    • Using a real town seems fine.
    • Using a real town and a real event - start to get a little more tricky, but again should be OK.
    • Using a real town, a real event and real people - well now you're in very sticky territory.

    I guess you need to ask yourself some questions.

    Is the real life event well remembered by people? Would they take great interest in how the event is portrayed? Are these real people and events intricate to the story?

    Have you discussed the events with those involved in it? It's always worthwhile doing some research with them and getting them involved.

    And don't forget to heed mammamaia's PS. If you're portraying real people and real lives, it doesn't matter if you change the names or change events, if it's still anywhere near identifiable any issues you might have had if you named the people/events will still be there.
     
  8. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    Is there any need to use real people? I mean there's historical accuracy, and then there's non-fiction. A reader might scoff if you mix up the order or location of a particular blitz, but they're not going to have any idea whether or not the people you mention are actually real. There's obviously no legal issue with writing about a particular place or a particular historical event.

    Basically, I just don't see why you would want to use real people. As soon as you do that, you lose your ability as a writer to do whatever you want with them. If you have fictional characters experiencing a real event, you can dramatise it however you see fit...you use real characters and unless they have actual transcripts of what they were saying during this event, you're gonna be making stuff up and no one is going to be happy with that...
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    aaron has presented some good points for you to ponder...
     
  10. Operaghost
    Offline

    Operaghost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    0
    real towns anend events could work fine, but unless you are trying a non fiction peice and even then be wary i woudl avoid using real people completely , or use them sapringly, fine if yoru character comes into contact with them, but try not to focus on them too much other than waht we already historically know about them, but there shoudl be no reason why you can't create a story based around for example 9/11 which everyone knows was real and affected a lot of people , if it is something which you find relevant to your story
     
  11. MacGuffin
    Offline

    MacGuffin Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    1
    thanks guys.

    I have taken what you have said into consideration... and I have thought about my protagonist... and I have thought about the fact that in Britain during WW2 all signs signifying where you are in the country were taken down... and I have decided that the name of the place simply won't come up.

    He might try to find out where he his when he first get's there... he might be mocked as a spy by a pair of old spinsters who laugh at his strange accent...

    Aaron I agree... I need to know where to use history and where to leave it at the door.
     

Share This Page