However tempting it is to think that you can name the characters in your novel after those who’ve crossed you in real life, doing so could land you in serious trouble – as one writer has been discovering.
I’ve been following how Sarah Goldfinger, a scriptwriter on the TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, fell out with two estate agents over a housing deal, then allegedly used their surname for a pair of villains on the show.
Needless to say they weren’t happy about it. According to this story in The Independent, they’re filing a £3.75m lawsuit at LA County Superior Court.
There is of course a rich tradition of drawing on those you know for the characters of your script or novel. When fully realised, this tradition employs what Brandi Reissenweber in Writing Fiction (edited by Alexander Steele) refers to as “creative invention” – that is, you don’t stick rigidly to fact, but fictionalise people and transform them into characters that suit the needs of your story.
This sort of imagining isn’t motivated by pettiness, that creeping enemy of creativity, and it’s a million miles from painting a black picture and putting real names to it.
You might even have accidentally named your character after something else entirely, like a Japanese table with a heater under it.
(Publisher for the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook)