I'm doing my first novel based on true life. It involves a series of real family events that happened in the late 1700's and early 1800's and a mystery that developed then. The protagonist who now lives in Ohio, travels back to Morgantown, West Va to explore her roots and solve a family mystery. Should I use real names? The story is documented in newspapers etc. If I do, does that mean the family must be protected from any wrongdoing? Any ideas appreciated.


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I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty such you can't libel the dead. I'm almost through reading Pete Dexter's DEADWOOD--a wonderful read, highly recommended--and he states in the beginning all of the people in the book were real, save one. He made the events up to fit within certain known historical events, but makes no pretense at historical accuracy. The HBO series has some similarities to his book, but protrays entirely different personalities and events. (For example, Al Swearengen is entirely different in the book from the TV show.) I've heard of no legal issues for either.
Thanks for yoru input. This is sort of what I'm thinking but I wasn't sure. It feels strange to take what I know about a real person and then turn it to fiction by adding in things I don't know.
Well, you can have a disclaimer that states that some events are historical fact, while others are fiction. My guess is, your problems will only concern living descendants.
I'm one of the living descendents.
Well, don't sue yourself!


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