1. teacherayala
    Offline

    teacherayala Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2011
    Messages:
    314
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Panama

    Too close to real-life event?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by teacherayala, May 1, 2011.

    I am working on a short story set in a political campaign and during my research I was trying to find an actual issue that governors would debate that could be influenced by campaign contributions. I stumbled upon an article describing a debate that took place between gubernatorial candidates at a university concerning hydrofracking--drilling in water for natural gas--and then worked in that environmental issue into my own scenario. There was also a speech in my story (not a debate) that took place at a university, although a different university.

    My question is this: is taking this scenario and working it into my story hitting too close to home where I could be sued for libel or something by having one of my characters involved in taking a position on this issue due to bundled campaign contributions from a company?
     
  2. Lothgar
    Offline

    Lothgar Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    417
    Likes Received:
    37
    You risk being sued for libel if your character is a real person and your work defames that person in some way. By having fictional characters debating the same issues that others have debated in real life, you do not have that risk (as long as the fictional characters are developed with backgrounds that are different from the real people involved.
     
  3. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    yup!... as long as it's fiction and none of the characters are based on real people and can be recognized as such, then you're not libeling/defaming anyone...
     
  4. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    In the U.S. if you're dealing with political figures it is hard to be sued successfully for defamation regardless. There has to be "actual malice" on the part of the writer or the first amendment shields you. Of course, if they sue it can cost you a bundle to defend even if you win.
     
  5. teacherayala
    Offline

    teacherayala Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2011
    Messages:
    314
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Panama
    Well, the only thing in common is that the republican is for defracking and the democrat is not, although in the actual recounting of the debate, it seemed that there were multiple candidates for and against. So I guess I'm pretty safe. I just wanted to double-check. The one thing that could perhaps be an identifiable "personal" attribute that I was going to give to a character, I changed, thinking that it would have been too much.

    Thanks, all!

    Dang, I just realized how freaking long the question sentence was from my original post. Kudos to you guys for ignoring it and actually understanding the question!! lol!
     
  6. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Use a fictional character with all the traits of a real-life politician. Win-win situation: all your readers will know who you're referring to, but with a different name and altered details, the character is a fictional creation and therefore libel-free.

    Now, as for the issue, why not have some type of business conflict? Huge corporation donates tons of money to a candidate, so the candidate gives them a bailout? (Don't get me wrong, I love businesses, even the big ones, but gov getting involved with them makes things hairy).

    Or oil drilling, or healthcare, or some kind of issue with technology companies that can be spun as a science-improving gov project...the list goes on and on.
     
  7. Porcupine
    Offline

    Porcupine Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Messages:
    346
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    I actually have a very strongly related question, not sure if I should make a new post or whether I can just add it in here, but I'll opt for the latter:

    What if you are writing about a relatively recent event (let's say, the currenty Libyan crisis). I seem to notice that this sort of thing is not done very often (or am I wrong?), most authors seem to prefer creating fictional crises away from current topics, presumably to lessen the fall-out, which will inevitably come when the portrayal of the crisis leans more one way than another, and leaves out aspects which may seem important to others. In short - what would you advise I should do if I had in mind to write about a recent event?
     
  8. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Write about what you want. If you want to cover the Libyan issue, do so.

    However, if you wanted, the other option is to fictionalize it in such a way that any intelligent (or even halfway intelligent) reader can make the connection, but it's not explicitly stated. For example, there are obvious parallels between WWII and LOTR, and between terrorists and Voldemort.

    But if you want to write about it straight-up, do so. Lots of writers have written explicitly about Nazi Germany, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Reign of Terror in France, etc etc.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    if you're writing a book, it's not going to be current by the time you finish it, anyway!

    if you've watched L&O, you should know that they quite often base their stories on very current events and don't even attempt to hide the fact, keep pretty close to the actual wrongdoings that are media fodder... so the bottom line is that it's done all the time and as long as you change the names and a bit of the circumstances, it's not an actionable legal issue...
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. Porcupine
    Offline

    Porcupine Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Messages:
    346
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Thanks for your replies!
     
  11. Infinitytruth
    Offline

    Infinitytruth Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2011
    Messages:
    154
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    In a house!
    If you don't publish it you have nothing to worry about, but if you publish it then you might want to look closer into it for sure.
     

Share This Page