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  1. rybowman

    rybowman New Member

    Jan 8, 2010
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    Quick question about fact vs. fiction

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by rybowman, Jul 10, 2010.

    I'm looking for thoughts on where to draw the line on fact vs. fiction in my novel. It is set in a factual city (Detroit) and I am referring to some past factual events (though the novel is not directly based on an actual event).

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on accuracy in regards to secondary characters. For example, if my story takes place in 2005 and I know that the Chief of Police in 2005 was a woman, should I make the Chief of Police in my novel a woman (with a different name)? The chief of police is not a main character in my novel, though they do appear in two scenes and have dialogue in one.

    I have seen it done both ways in novels and movies ie.sometimes the US president or mayor, etc will be based on the actual person, and sometimes they will be completely fictional. I'm not sure what would be better or if it even matters. Any advice would be great. Thanks
  2. Norm

    Norm Contributing Member

    Feb 2, 2010
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    Doesn't matter unless the story tells you otherwise.
  3. Unit7

    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

    Jun 13, 2009
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    Go with what best suits your story. Only someone truly nitpicky would complain about this. If your story is completely fictional, then you can have them as male or female. Have them black, asian, mexican, or european if you want. Personally I won't even bother looking up such information when I read a book. If I find out later that the actual Chief of Police was female while in the book he was a grumpy old man. Well that wont bug me in the least.

    So if the story is better suited that the character be female then let them be female. If its best for the character to be male, well there you go.

    If it really doesn't matter at all. Then I guess you can choose the gender based on who was in the office at the time. That or flip a coin.
  4. w176

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Jun 22, 2010
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    LuleƄ, Sweden
    I would reason this way. Fact awesome and gives a feeling of connection. I would use it as far as possible.

    Bur if any character becomes directly involved in the plot, not just mentioned I would for respect of that persons integrity use a fictional person.
  5. Manav

    Manav Contributing Member

    Mar 26, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Imphal, India
    If you want to refer to a historical event like a law passed by the president or the mayor, or referring to an important speech, and they are not characters in your story, then you should use the actual names, date etc.... it will give an air of authenticity to the story (making it believable) which is a very important requirement for a good fictional story.

    If they are characters in your story (as in you are going to make them do things which are not historically accurate), make them whatever your story requires.
  6. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Massachusetts, USA
    If you use real people in your novel, there is the risk of writing something that could be considered libel. So if you name a particular city's mayor, and write about contractors paying bribes to secure city projects, you could be sued for libel on the basis that you're alleging incompetence or complicity in his office, even if you did not intend any criticism of him.

    That's an example unlikely to go to trial, but it points out just how careful you need to be. Even without it going to trial. there could be a negotiated settlement taking a bite from your book's revenue.

    Just something to keep in mind before you incorporate real people in your novels.
  7. Jane Beryl

    Jane Beryl Member

    Jun 25, 2010
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    California, USA
    I think a good fictional book example with the case you're having problems with would be The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald. It not only had characters that were effected by past events in modern (their sense of the word) times but also there were some things going on during that time period that were mentioned in the book. It all depends on what is going in the story that you feel is necessary to mention. For instance, one of the characters in The Great Gatsby is connected to the rigged 1919 World Series, making him a sketchy character.

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