Treading the Line

For the time, I am immersing myself in crafting thrillers, although fantasy keeps rearing its head, beckoning me to return because in so many ways it is less demanding. First and foremost, fantasy requires little if any research. Even more important, it poses no liability issues. From the outset, it is obvious the characters and settings are entirely fictitious. Not so with thrillers.

This genre’s readers demand realism. The stories must be believable—the more so the better. They must be set in the real world in recognizable places, must pose real issues, realistic threats, and be populated with flesh and blood characters you might yet meet if you haven’t already. Herein lies the crux of the inherent problem.

While the city and State the story occurs in may be real and cited by name, naming actual businesses or recognizable privately-owned locations, especially in a context where bad things happen, can have real legal consequences. Consequently, when I set off a dirty bomb in a major sports venue, I had to take care to give the teams different names from the real ones, but similar enough the reader can identify with them. And while the stadium remains unnamed, the city makes it immediately recognizable. Fortunately, because I set my story in the future, I can argue that the home team, the visiting team and stadium’s ownership as well as team composition have changed by that time. They are certainly not the ones that currently exist. In fact, upon publication the book will undoubtedly have to be prefaced with appropriate legal disclaimers acknowledging the fictitious nature of the work and stating any resemblance to actual places or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Until now, I always wondered at the reason for such obvious statements, but my attorney wife has made it abundantly clear how much I would stand to lose without the appropriate boilerplate appearing immediately after the book’s title page. Naturally, if I find my way into print with a traditional publisher, their legal department will take care of all such matters. If, on the other hand, I decide to self-publish, I may have to retain an attorney with relevant experience to insure such disclaimers are properly worded. While this service will probably not cost an arm and a leg, it will be a real, necessary expense nonetheless. A small price to pay for a good night’s sleep all because “the times they are a-changin’ ” – Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music  J

Raymond Bolton

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8 responses to “Treading the Line

  1. haha, I’ll make sure to keep Dylan’s lawyers at bay.
    eden

    • raymondbolton

      I wasn’t sure if anyone would get that—not that it’s my finest humor. I should have counted on you. 🙂

  2. I’m going through the same thing with a memoir – the implicit contract being that it’s “real” and “true.” So who’s name do I change? Who’ll be mad if they get left out of the book and who’ll be mad if they’re in? And when I talk about not-so-good things that happened (all documented in journals the same day) and that will be hard to disguise…? I understand the importance of respecting other people’s sensitivities and even different “memories” of the same events, so I’m with you, Raymond – I’m consulting a lawyer.

  3. In screenwriting you have to be careful in writing music in as an intricate part of the story as you may not get or be able to afford permission to use it. When I made Winos & Pigeons, I used 4 of Rod McKuen’s poems, of which he requested I donate $100 per poem to the Elisabeth Taylor Aides foundation.
    Wally

  4. I don’t know, Raymond, I think, despite the legal challenges, writing great fantasy is just as hard, if not harder, than writing great thrillers. Because if I don’t believe the characters and the fantasy, no amount of work will get me to buy in. I might read a thriller just because it’s set in a place I know. Actually, writing a great anything is hard work –

    Kate

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