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Writing Fiction Based On A True Story

Defamation Law Discussion Forum

Writing Fiction Based On A True Story

Postby Timoteo » Tue Nov 25, 2014 5:31 pm

I've written a book based on a true story.  Just before going to print, my publisher said the creative non-fiction genre was not acceptable, and I was asked to fictionalize all the characters, places and events or terminate the contract. The story is about a family ripped apart by the pastor of their church. I fictionalized it.  I previously promoted it as creative non-fiction based on a true story. Now that it's fiction, can I promote the book as such, but still say that it's based on a true story without libeling myself?  All true events of the clergy misconduct were changed to similar acts of misconduct and not criminal or prosecutable, just in very bad taste.  All mention of where  this took place has been removed from the book. This is based on my co-author's true story, but fictionalized.  Even though people know that the story is about his family, are we setting ourselves up for trouble by saying this a fictionalized account based on his true story?
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Writing Fiction Based On A True Story

Postby Styrr » Fri Dec 05, 2014 5:50 pm

Hello Helen,

In my opinion, it's either non-fiction or fiction. Whether you wish it to relate to a true story or not, would mean changing it to a non-fiction genre and possibly losing your publisher in the process. I guess you will have to decide if you are telling a true story or not and stop flip flopping between genres. I would do a bit of research on auto-biographies and their outline to see if this fits within that genre, before sending this off as fictional.  If there is an important story that needs to be told, you need to consult a lawyer about covering yourself in case of any libel suits.  Tough decisions. Your publisher has obviously chosen to take the easier route... up to you if you choose to follow suit. Sometimes, choices must be made on principle...not on profit...


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