Do I have to get consent from people if I'm writing a fiction book? 8 Answers as of November 02, 2012I'm writing a fiction novel but the characters are based on real people. When certain people read the book, they will know who the characters are based off of. Do I have to get these peoples consent for this? I know everyone will not be very happy with how they are portrayed and I don't want to get sued.
The rules on real life stories are very complex. If it is a historic person, or a public person who is still in the news, there is some leeway. Still, you should work closely with a lawyer during your writing process if you hope to publish the book. Books that are presented as if they are factual must be factual. Those presented as fictionalized must be clearly presented as such. Most fictionalized books of historic or public people end out being slammed by reviewers, unless they are very clever in some other way.
If you are presenting people you know personally who are not historic or public figures, what is usually done is that characters are combined, life details are changed, real names are not used, places are changed, and so on to minimize damage to any person. However, you and your publisher can still expect to be sued. That is why most publishers reject such books.
If the book is superb, a publisher may have their editors work with it to make is usable. If you want to get to that threshold and your writing is excellent, you should work with a lawyer who knows this field of law.
However, if you proceed ahead and write stories about people you know and include details you know they will not like, then you will most likely be sued, ostracized, and have lots of personal and legal trouble.