Posts Tagged With: True Story

My Funny (and True) Ghost Town Story

Colorado Ghost Town

Nice to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

Here in Colorado, we have our fair share of ghost towns. GPS and smart phones make them easier to find these days, but years ago you had to get there the old-fashioned way.

One summer day, my wife and I were exploring a decently intact ghost town deep in the mountains. The roofs of the buildings were caved in, but the storefronts were still standing. After hiking around and snapping photos, we sat on the tailgate of the Bronco to share a sandwich.

In the distance, a wispy dust cloud appeared, accompanied by the growling of a motorcycle engine.

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Don’t Make This Legal Mistake in Your Novel

Q: Is it legal to write a novel based on a true story, and use the real names of the people involved?

A: Yes, but it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. Since I’m not a lawyer, none of this is legal advice of any kind, FYI. But here’s what you’re up against:

Writing about a living person who is not a public figure may put you at risk of libel allegations. For that reason, journalists have to keep painstaking notes so that they can prove everything they put in print.

For example, I can write “Joe Lefty is a one-armed man” if I can back that up with a photo of Mr. Lefty sans limb. But if I want to write “Joe Lefty is a one-armed hit-man,” then I’d better have proof that he was convicted in some kind of murder-for-hire scheme, or I could be hearing from Lefty’s lawyers: Dewey, Cheetam & Howe.

On the other hand (sorry), you might have more leeway if Lefty is a public figure, like a politician, since the court might consider him to have given up a right to total privacy.  Still, you need to be careful. Writing about a real living person is fraught with legal issues, so if you’re serious about it, check with a lawyer first.

But wait. Before you give up completely, remember that you’re a fiction writer. A novel is a fictitious work, meaning that you can write whatever you want, as long as you don’t present it as fact. Even if your story is a thinly-veiled version of the truth, you can still change the names, insist that it’s a work of fiction, and get away with… well, I don’t know about murder, but you can get away with a lot.

Hope that helps. Have fun writing!

Do you have a question about writing a novel? Ask it here.

Categories: For Writers, how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I’m wanted for murder!

Fresh on the heels of “They Fight Crime!” comes the Instant True Story Generator by Nathaniel Jones.  Go ahead, click it.  You deserve a laugh.

Shakespeare this is not.  In fact, when I read this, I hear the voice of Napoleon Dynamite (“Gosh!”).  But for random computer-generated hi jinks, this is pretty funny stuff.  Here’s what I got:

“One time while I was in ‘Nam, while fighting a dragon, I happened to hear on the television that I was wanted for murder! And I was like, ‘geeze, not again.’ After that my animal instinct kicked in and I turned this to my advantage and showed off my kung fu moves.

“But the real show stopper was this: my car broke down. And when I say broke down, I mean that when I turned it on, it exploded in a huge ball of fire that caused millions of dollars in property damage. It’s just a good thing I had my seat belt on, or I could have died right then. Luckily, my new fighting technique is unstoppable and so I was able to make the world a better place for all the little children.

“And, to make a long story short, that’s why I get free coffee now.”

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