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|Friday March 7, 2014|
|Using Real Names in Fiction|
|By Anne Bowling|
Q: Can you use real names in fiction? -Chris
As for private figures, you’d be very, very wise not to use real names in any event. Authors have been sued for the appearance of maligning private figures, even without the use of that figure’s name. Terry McMillan (Waiting To Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back), in her novel Disappearing Acts, featured a male character named Franklin, who could be alternately tender and loving and drunk and abusive.
A former boyfriend took her to court, saying she had maligned his character with the portrayal. McMillan countered that as a writer she had a right to draw on her life experiences as a basis for her fiction, and that Franklin wasn’t solely based on her former boyfriend. McMillan eventually won, but this works as a cautionary tale for writers considering using real names, or too closely portraying real people in their fiction.
I’d say when in doubt, have an attorney look it over. You may find free or inexpensive assistance through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.