SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Historical Figure as Main Character In Fiction

Discussion started on

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region ohiocensouth
What are the watchouts or legal limitations of using a historical figure in a fiction novel?  I am not changing the essence of who they are but inserting them as a main character in a story.

Any advice would be appreciated.  Thanks.
#1 - February 13, 2019, 08:54 AM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
Because it's historical *fiction* you would have a lot of leeway from inventing dialogue to even consolidating events for narrative flow. I love HF and it's always fascinating to read the back-matter. Focus on the story you want to write, keep track of your sources for facts and figures and details, and enjoy. Some of my favorite authors in this genre are Karen Cushman, Scott O'Dell, Linda Sue Park, Jane Yolen, and so many more.
#2 - February 13, 2019, 09:53 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region ohiocensouth
Vijaya, thanks for the advice.
Charles
#3 - February 13, 2019, 10:17 AM

Children's Book Editor
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
What are the watchouts or legal limitations of using a historical figure in a fiction novel?  I am not changing the essence of who they are but inserting them as a main character in a story.

Any advice would be appreciated.  Thanks.

You asked about "legal limitations," which leads me to ask if this character is alive today, and if the events you will be writing about are recent? That might complicate things.
#4 - February 14, 2019, 08:27 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region ohiocensouth
You asked about "legal limitations," which leads me to ask if this character is alive today, and if the events you will be writing about are recent? That might complicate things.

You asked about "legal limitations," which leads me to ask if this character is alive today, and if the events you will be writing about are recent? That might complicate things.

No, the characters are not alive.
#5 - February 14, 2019, 12:21 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • **
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region westcentny
I just finished THE FATAL THRONE, written by seven authors, where each of Henry VII's wives AND Henry are main characters, and the book is told from their povs. It was done really well, though of course what they actually thought or said is complete speculation and fiction.
#6 - February 16, 2019, 04:59 AM
BLACKOUT -- available now
DESERTED -- available now
SISTERS DON'T TELL -- available now
www.deenalipomi.com

New Poster
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region newengland
There's an adult historical fiction novel called "When the Men Were Gone," that follows a female football coach during World War II. The characters were all based on real people, but the author explains in her author's note that much of their experience was fictionalized. I also noticed a disclaimer on the first page that says, "References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously." So there are definitely ways to make it happen!
#7 - May 01, 2019, 03:31 PM

Children's Book Editor
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
No, the characters are not alive.

That simplifies things. My advice is to do the best research you can, keeping careful notes on sources for any fact you might draw upon. Then once your book is under contract, be prepared to turn your research over to your publisher's legal department, who will provide advice.
#8 - June 10, 2019, 12:30 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.