Reality is stranger than anything I could write. This is why I write fiction—I put reality into more palatable chunks so I can digest it better.
Drawing on the real world to help design the unreal is where good world building comes into play. However, we shouldn’t use the real names and exact situations of people we are acquainted with in our work. Don’t thinly disguise them with a different name—they can sue us.
Consider the late Betty MacDonald, whose first published book was picked up by J.B. Lippincott. The Egg and I is a fictionalized account of Betty’s life as a chicken farmer. It was set in Chimacum, a small community in rural Washington State. The book was a success, selling well over a million copies and spinning off several movie adaptations.
It also spun off several lawsuits for defamation of character. Although the book…
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