Writing Modern People in Fiction

Hello, Jim–

I was wondering if you had any insight to offer on a dilemma I’m facing in a current novella draft:
The story is a blend of Alternate History and general scifi, set in a world where a much more aggressive Space Race and Cold War has led to the establishment of a joint USA-USSR colony on the Moon by the late 1990s, ostensibly as a neutral site for lunar and space experiments, as well as helium-three mining. Most of my characters are fictional, but many of the secondary ones are public figures, including real astronauts or other personnel involved in flight engineering and other aspects of space travel; some are deceased, while at least one is himself a published author. I am concerned about using such figures due to possible legal issues (which I am still unclear on, despite diligent searching and questions elsewhere), but I don’t want to go back and redesign the characters, which might involve scrapping the whole draft (something I’ve already done once before with this one). Do you have any suggestions on how to sort this out?
Sincerely,
Mark Ciccone

Hi Mark,

This is a tough one. On the surface, you can argue that they are real people being exposed to fictional situations, but that still won’t cover you. In the past, I’ve had people ask me about historical figures or past political ones. However, those people have always been deceased and you can’t libel a dead person. Now even then, you’re not free from legal challenge or public scrutiny, especially if that person has an estate and living relatives.
This is a complicated problem, especially if you’re going to to through the self-publishing realm. Again it would be easier if a publisher were involved because then a lot of the legalese is sorted out by them. However if you do self-pubish and even if you don’t, you could be getting yourself into trouble. This is ten-fold with self publishing as you PERSONALLY are responsible for any legal woes.
I have two suggestions for you and neither one is really going to be easy…
1. First, contact an attorney, let them guide you through the legalities here (I am not an expert, so I will tip my hat to their knowledge). I would also reach out to the people in question. Try to speak to them personally, let them know what you’re doing, and what you’re planning on using them for. Finally, get written authorization from these people. Again, this won’t be fool-proof protection, but in the case of a cease and desist or lawsuit, it will help your defense.
2. Change the characters. I’m afraid this is my recommendation.  Keep your characters as they are, but change the names and make them slightly less recognizable. I know it’s not what you want to do, but believe me, it is the easiest way to save yourself a headache down the line.
Like it or not, if you go with option one, no matter how much you insulate yourself, no matter how much you follow the letter of the law, there is virtually nothing preventing the people you write about from contacting their attorneys and issuing a cease and desist letter demanding that you cease production, destroy whatever copies you have, and send them whatever money you have made off of your book. You can fight this, but legal battles are not cheap and for authors who don’t make much money off of their books, it’s hardly worth the effort or risk. This is arguably the more lenient possibility.
The other could be a lawsuit for libel, which will be far more costly.
Now what are the chances that any of the people you write about ever reading your book or deciding to take legal action against you? Arguably, that’s very slim. The cost of legal action is often not worth whatever damages they get paid out, but you never know. Some might file the suit based on principle alone.
So in the end… I’m sorry, but I’m afraid my advice is to simply alter your characters enough that they aren’t exactly the people you’re trying to write about. It won’t be easy, but you’ll be better off in the long run when it comes to having to worry about losing your hard work or earned money.
However, as with always, that’s just my opinion. I’ve got a lot of other knowledgeable people amongst my followers, so let’s open it up to them as well.
Readers- what do you think Mark should do? Should he chance it, or should he simply go through the process of altering those characters?
Just a quick reminder, I am not a lawyer, not am I any sort of legal expert. I give out advice on writing based on my own experiences. When it comes to any legality, my advice is as it always has been; CONTACT A LAWYER!!!


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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Private Life. Professional Appearance.

 

Hi Jim,

Since starting writing both my books and my blog, I’ve been getting a lot of friend requests to my primary social media accounts. Part of me doesn’t want these people to have access to my personal information and the things I talk about with my friends… I’ve heard of being doxxed for their opinions, stalked, etc. However I really don’t want to insult any of my fans. I’ve already made my account private, however a lot of them still want to connect on social media platforms. You seem to have quite a following on social media, how do you handle it?

Thanks,
Juan


Hi Juan,

Keeping your private life and public image separate is something that personalities have had to contend with for many years. You’re not alone in your concerns. Honestly, I would sincerely discourage adding your fans/followers to your personal accounts. You don’t know these people and while most of them are probably benign and just being friendly, one person with ill-intent is too many.

My advice is to completely lock down your private social media accounts. Make them unsearchable and unviewable to the general public. There are ways around it, but first people have to figure out that you have private accounts and know where to find them. The next thing I would do is create social media sites for yourself using separate emails and contact info. Make these ones public where people can join for news about what you’re doing and anything else that you want to share with them. Next, I would not link your private accounts with your public ones in any way. Keep them separate.  Make sure to link all of your public accounts together and provide links to each of them for people to go to, as I have both on the sidebar and below.

As for the people who have already tried to add you, simply reject the request, you’re not obligated to add anyone and any follower should understand if you simply want to keep your page private.

In summation, do as you should be doing with your work-life and your home life, keep them separate. I can speak from experience that mixing the two does not end well. Anyway, I hope this helps. If you run into any troubles, please feel free to reach out to me again.

Readers, how do you handle scenarios like this? Is it necessary to create two different accounts and can you effectively mix your two images together? Let me know in the comments.

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Silencing Critics, Validates Them.

Anyone who has read my blog, knows that I have had to field many questions regarding how to handle criticism and reviews. My advice has always been a hands-off approach of engagement. Discussion and dialogue are always the best way to understand another person’s criticisms and concerns. In the end, you may find out that the other person has a valid point that you didn’t initially think of. A conversation can also provide confirmation if someone is in fact trolling you and simply needs to be ignored.

Arguably the worst thing you can do is block the person on social media or silence them in other mediums. Unless someone is actually attacking you on a personal level, consistently slamming you continuous, annoying messages, or making threats of some kind, there is virtually no justification for silencing that person. Doing so accomplishes nothing other than making your argument, post, or other offering look incredibly weak.

If your work, thoughts, or beliefs can’t stand up to every day scrutiny, then perhaps you should have thought twice about posting them in the first place. Perhaps a look inward might be in order. If on the other hand, you simply don’t want it to be criticized or debated, then posting it online might not have been the best idea.

If someone sees something you’ve posted and presents a differing opinion, or thoughts about what you’ve done that you may not necessarily agree with, silencing that person’s opinion gives off the impression that either you’re too immature to handle different viewpoints or as I said above, that your stance or work is weak and the critic may actually have a point. This potentially gives credence to someone who may have simply been trying to troll you.

I honestly see this quite often with people who have spent to long in their own echo chambers. This isn’t a strike against any one person or group as we all have bubbles where people will pat us on the back and do nothing but agree with us. The only way we actually grow intellectually is if we recognize our bubble and break out of it, thus exposing ourselves to new thoughts and ideas.

In terms of creative works, criticism should not only be welcomed, but is absolutely essential to growth in our chosen art. We gain nothing by having the same people validate our existence and work, regardless of its quality. One often wonders why Hollywood doesn’t produce anything good anymore or how a movie like Ghostbusters 2016 could be made. Looking at the landscape of Hollywood, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the writers and directors are in their own safespaces where people are either too like-minded, or in Ghostbusters’ case, too afraid of being labelled sexist, to tell the creators that their work might not be at its best.

In summation, if someone disagrees with you, criticizes your work, or debates points you’ve made, do not block them, dismiss them, try to silence them with threats of bigotry, attack their livelihoods, or at worst, physically assaulting them. If this is your first inkling when faced with criticism, I invite you to follow Q’s advice:

If you’re mature enough to have a thought, an opinion, or create something, you should have the mental stability/maturity to handle criticism. Harsh though this may sound, this is the best advice I can give for dealing with criticism.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Delaying the Inevitable.

 

Hi Jim,

I’m just about to publish, but I don’t think the book is ready. I set a release date so that everyone would be ready and excited, but now I feel like I’ve really roped myself into a corner. I want to do more work on the book, but I don’t want to disappoint my fans. What should I do?

-Miles


Hi Miles,

 

I honestly don’t know. If you’re looking for someone to tell you whether you should go ahead and publish or not, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. All I can do is weigh out the pros and cons for you.

First of all, you set a definitive deadline for yourself before your book was done. That was your first mistake. If you want to release imagery of your book and let a few plot points drop, all power to you. However it is usually better to just tell people that your book is, for example, ‘due to be out next year.’ That gives you enough time. Don’t set definitive timelines that you may not be able to keep to.

I personally have run into this situation a few times, and even after having the book complete and being reasonably sure that it would go to publishing on time, I’ve had to push releases back due to complications. My most recent book has been pushed back twice.

So on one hand, you don’t want to disappoint your readers and if your book is highly anticipated, you will get some bellyaching from your audience.

On the other hand, if you release a flawed work, it could turn the audience off even more.

However at the same time, I’d recommend doing some soul searching. Does your book need more editing or updating or are you suffering from a case of writer’s fear. Are you afraid of releasing your book and the audience won’t like it to the point where you’re making unnecessary changes and ‘finding’ problems to edit? If so, it may just be the jitters.

If this is the case, I’d find someone to take a good long look at your book and make the call for you on whether they think its ready. If it really does need more edits, then you’d do well to be up front with your readers and let them know what’s going on.

I hope this helps! Readers, what do you think? Do you have any advice for Miles?



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Can Skynet Truly Be Stopped?

“It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.”
-T-800, Terminator 2

So I recently rewatched a few of the Terminator movies and the Sarah Connor Chronicles and I have reached one inescapable conclusion…

Terminator 3 got it right… At the end of the movie, John Connor comes to the conclusion that it wasn’t humanity’s job to prevent judgement day, just simply to survive it so that they could fight later on.

This is a conclusion that I have come to as well. Skynet is essentially a digital hydra. You cut off one head, and another one grows in to replace it. First Cyberdyne Systems, then the Dept. of Defense, then the Turk, and finally the global OS Genisys.

Regardless of which one they kill, another one pops up to take its place. All they can do it seems, is postpone judgement day… which if you watch the 3rd Terminator, you can see that… perhaps simply not stopping judgement day and just getting the fight over after the fact may have been the better choice.

Now, let’s say that Sarah and Reese at the end of Genisys become vigilantes, going around destroying anything that could potentially become skynet… they still have two problems;

  1. If they succeed, they’ll have altered history and not be able to properly figure out which machine is next in line to try and take over?
  2. Human life is finite. What happens after they pass on? Eventually Judgement Day in the Terminator Universe is going to happen. It appears to be an inevitability.

So my question then is, why do they keep trying? I understand that we’re talking about billions of lives, but if you’re fighting a battle that you can’t possibly win, it might be more worthwhile to prepare humanity for it. Get people ready for the nuclear fallout and head to shelters so that once judgement day happens, they’ll not only still be alive, but ready to fight Skynet when it comes.

These are just my quick thoughts, but I thought I’d open it up for conversation. Let me know what you think.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Unfinished Works and What To Do With Them.

 

Hi Jim,

I have a number of stories that I’ve just completely run out of steam on. I don’t want to finish them, I’m not enthusiastic about writing them anymore. I was wondering, what do you think I should do with them? I spent a lot of time on them and it seems a shame to just up and delete them. What do you think?

Thanks,
Nick


Hi Nick,

I hear you. It’s always tough to bite the bullet and give up on a story that you’ve worked so hard on. I’ve posted a number of my unfinished stories here, which you can go back and read if you like.

All right to answer your question, there are quite a few things you can do with them. First, you could put them on the back burner. Who knows, you may come up with a way to continue the story sometime down the line. It’s never too late to go back and re-examine your previous works.

Secondly, you can always recycle the characters. Keep them around and reuse them later on in another book. If you write another story and are looking for dynamic characters to use, why write new ones? You’ve got characters right in a saved file that you were at one time very enthusiastic about. This is your chance to give them the finished story that they deserve.

Third, use those stories as a reference. Believe it or not, an abandoned Star Wars fanfic I wrote many years ago became the sequel to my first full-length novel, Divinity. Yes obviously the Face of Evil was cannibalized beyond recognition when it was rewritten as Damnation, but some elements of the original story still exist. If not for keeping a copy of The Face of Evil, Damnation may have either never existed or been a lot different than it is.

Finally, find another author to read and finish the work. Yes, there’s no rule that says you can’t co-author the story with someone else. I’ve personally never done this, but I have heard of others doing it with some success.

So I think in the end, having a library of unfinished works around cost you nothing more than a few megabytes. They’re good reference, a good starting point, and may be something you can revisit later on. So my advice to you is never to delete your writing. Don’t tear it up, don’t destroy it. Even in it’s unfinished form, the story itself has value.

Anyway, I hope this gives you some insight. If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me. Now let’s open it up to the other writers on here. What does everyone else think? What do you do with works that you can’t finish? Do you keep them around or just keep certain elements in your head? Is there some value in keeping them around?



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Question: Did Palpatine Truly Care About Darth Vader?

 

I’ve seen a lot of information and theories flying around about Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious). There are theories that Darth Vader was a means to an end, that Darth Vader was disposable and the Emperor would do away with him as soon as someone else came along that might be better, or even worse, that Palpatine was some kind of celestial being (possibly Darth Plagueis) who could jump from body to body and was planning to jump into Anakin once he was properly prepared.

First of all, people… stop with the Plagueis theories. They’re getting old very quickly… Palpatine’s mentor was Plagueis, Palpatine is Plagueis, Snoke is Plagueis, the Grand Inquisitor is Plagueis…

Here’s a thought, maybe nobody is Plagueis. Maybe Palpatine made the whole thing up. Anybody ever thought of that? All right, moving on.

So we know that Palpatine is not above using pretty much anyone to get what he wants. He’s also not above sacrificing those people if need be. However, that being said, is it possible that in some way Palpatine actually cared about Vader/Anakin and cherished his friendship?

Maybe this is my own personal bias because I believe that everyone has some good in them. Palpatine is painted pretty much as bad as anyone can get, we know this. However even some of the worst people throughout our own history had friends, family, and people they genuinely cared for.

So the question is posed, based on what we know of Palpatine, SOLELY FROM Level 1 Canon, in other words forget the books, video games, etc. Based solely on Lucasfilm’s work (movies and TV shows)… does Palpatine truly care about Darth Vader or is he simply a means to an end?

Honestly, it’s a tough question to answer…

I mean if we look at scenes like the Opera chamber in Episode 3…

It’s… pretty clearly Palpatine planting the seeds of manipulation in order to make the dark side more tempting.

We also have this scene where Palpatine laughs as Darth Vader is defeated and attempted to goad Luke into killing him and taking his place.

However I don’t know if this is evidence or not… for a couple of reasons. One, we don’t know what would have happened if Luke had tried to kill his father. Would Palpatine have stopped him? Two servants are better than one.

 

Even if he did let Vader die, Vader had conspired against him in the past (Episode 3 and 6), something no doubt the Emperor sensed and decided that, despite his feelings, Vader was now a threat.

So then what evidence do I have that he actually cared about Vader? Well… it all boils down to two specific clips;

“You will not stop me. Soon Darth Vader will become more powerful than either of us.”

He’s placing a lot of faith in Darth Vader here and it almost seems as though he’s counting on Vader surpassing him and perhaps one day succeeding him as Emperor, maybe?

However the biggest piece of evidence that favors this argument is a later clip from Episode 3:

If there was ever a good place to leave Darth Vader for dead, this was it. He was broken, dying, completely mad with rage, and wounded to the point of not being able to survive on his own.

Simply put; the Emperor didn’t need Darth Vader anymore. The galaxy had turned on the Jedi, they were already being hunted down by clones, and soon the inquisitors would be joining that hunt, and the Emperor had all but achieved his goal of galactic domination. Granted having Vader around as his enforcer made things easier, but the pieces would likely have fallen into place without a second ambitious Sith Lord being a liability.

Yet the moment that the Emperor sensed that Vader was in danger, he hopped a shuttle and made his way to the Mustafar system. Once he arrived, at seeing Vader’s broken form, he could have easily either finished him off or left him to die painfully. Instead he immediately directs the attention of his guard to where Vader is. Upon seeing him, the Emperor appears both shocked and relieved. He orders his men to get a medical capsule and then goes down to Vader and… by the looks of things attempts to comfort him.

But what about when he lies about killing Padme’? 

Did he lie though? Think about it, why did Padme’ die? The medical droids couldn’t figure it out, they simply said that she lost the will to live. Now silly as this is, since this is the plot point… what caused her to lose the will to live? The answer; Anakin.

A certain point of view? 🙂

I think this evidence is enough to make the case that he did in fact care about him on a friend level. However, I’m curious to what everyone else thinks. Let’s open this one up to a discussion.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim