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Can I use a real life person in my novel?

389 Views 3 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  WMKZbKs47sd5tQ
I have a short story that I'm expanding to a novel. One of the main characters is based on a real person I knew casually, probably fifteen years ago.I have no idea where this man is or if their alive. I'm using his real name currently. Convention dictates I should change it for legal reasons when I publish, but I've become attached to the real name and like it for this story. Can I get away with publishing using his real name?
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Change the name. No matter that the character is a "good guy" or you believe this person will "not mind" being in your book, it's not worth the risk of a lawsuit. There's no downside to changing the name, even slightly, and a huge possible downside if you don't. To you, it's just a name; to him, it's his identity.
Thanks Jena, your line 'To you, it's just a name; to him, it's his identity' really hit home with me.
If the person is not a public figure (politician, movie star, etc.) don't use the real name without permission.
Some authors (Dean Koontz for one) have used friends as a villain with their permission.
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