Tuesday, June 26, 2007

103. The Truth in Fiction

Writing fiction is a tricky business. When you write a novel, you're writing a lie, but it has to seem real to be considered good.

And authors can lie about their identities, too. Writers have long used pseudonyms. This type of "lie" is a literary tradition for certain types of novels--novels that touch on real people, novels that address hot topics like sex and drugs, novels that are controversial in subject-matter.

So what happens when an author writes a novel that seems totally real, uses a pseudonym, and starts attracting a lot of attention? If she makes the mistake of pretending to be the pseudonymous person, she can get sued for fraud. WashingtonPostReportsOnJTLeroy

And made to pony up the expenses paid by the company that bought the movie rights to the book. KTVUreports

The pseudonym was supposed to be a young boy, sexually exploited, telling his fictionalized account, but turns out to be a woman, who was sexually exploited, telling her fictionalized account.

I'm all for the truth, but somehow, writing a NOVEL and using a pseudonym, doesn't seem sufficient to entitle a company to think that it's buying something that is true, and then sue and win on a fraud claim.

But there's a lesson for all writers here. That line between fiction and truth--it can be blurred, must be blurred, for the novel, but it better be bright and clean on the signed contract.


Lostcheerio said...

I think it's the agent's fault, really. Bad counsel.

When you're buying a book you're also buying an author -- to go on tour, to do appearances, to sell his/her own book. They're right to be irritated when they author they think they bought does not actually exist.

Saipan Writer said...

Interesting thought, Ms. Cheerio.

The publisher did not sue, though. The company that sued was an indy movie company intending to adapt the book to film. For some reason, they argued that having the author be different than her pseudonymous personage made the film-making untenable.

I just don't get that. A movie based on a novel is fiction. There's something behind this that insists that fiction be "real" and that's what's bothering me.

I don't condone the author pretending to be someone else, but what she sold was fiction. What the film-maker bought was fiction.

But I do agree, if she had an agent, she needed better advice.