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Very well put. The joy of fiction is in the creation of a world that a writer can manipulate. And, as you point out, all fiction is based upon reality experienced in some manner. Would that we could change reality--and write a novel!


You, sir, are a god.


i have always desired to be a writer, something i believe in my heart to be a gift
but i have never been able to connect. i am fragmented unable to be cohesive. its nothing about what you are talking. just an observation about me


I'm writing a fictional manuscript about a two real life people and adding a fictional central character whose life is impacted by a series of events that involve the other two central characters. He becomes juror at her famous trial. The real life characters are Angela Davis and George Jackson.
Do you think I get away with this?

Crawford Kilian

Plenty of authors have put real-life characters in their fiction. The sadly forgotten American author David Stacton wrote a novel about Wendell Willkie, the Republican candidate for president in 1940. (He wrote lots of other historical novels before his early death in 1967.)

Upton Sinclair wrote a series of thrillers in the 1930s starring a guy named Lanny Budd who rubbed elbows with Roosevelt and other prominent figures.

More recently, Philip Roth made Charles Lindbergh the villain-president of his alternate-history novel The Plot Against America.

In the story you describe, Robert, you could probably "get away" with the story you describe. But you'd also be constrained by the historical facts of the trial and the real-life characters. Assuming the story is good enough to publish, the use of real people might raise legal questions that a publisher wouldn't want to face.

So if I were trying to tell such a story, I think I'd create parallel characters, whose traits I could tinker with to make my points. Maybe the Angela Davis character would be a Chicana, or the daughter of Japanese-Americans interned during WW II. The George Jackson character might blend traits we recall from a number of 60s and 70s black radicals.

The point of telling a fictional story about a real era, after all, is to dramatize our own vision of that era—what it means to us in the first decade of another century. Otherwise, we might as well write straight history, complete with footnotes.

Whatever you decide to do with your story, I wish you luck with it!

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Some of My Books

  • : The Fall of the Republic

    The Fall of the Republic
    In a parallel timeline, 1990s America discovers the chronoplanes: parallel worlds at different points in history.

  • : Rogue Emperor

    Rogue Emperor
    The hijacking of the Roman Empire, 100 AD, by 21st-century Christian fundamentalists, in the second of the Chronoplane Wars novels.

  • : The Empire of Time

    The Empire of Time
    My first novel, published in 1978, but the last in the Chronoplane Wars trilogy.

  • : Gryphon

    "Write a space opera," my editor said. So I did, with some nanotech thrown in.

  • : Tsunami

    A companion novel to Icequake, set mostly in California.

  • : Icequake

    A disaster thriller (Antarctic ice sheet surges into ocean), dated but still fun.

  • : Eyas

    Originally published in 1982, and still the novel I'm most proud of.

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