Not long ago, I was reading a novel when I encountered someone I knew. Not on the train, or at the next table, or passing by the park bench where I sometimes attempt to read while my children are playing. In the novel.
There, despite a change of name and a few identifying features, was a person I knew quite well, rendered in mostly accurate but less than flattering detail. I had been tipped off by a mutual friend that this was the case, but it was eerie—and faintly thrilling—to find so familiar a figure pinned (if not unforgivingly than at least uncomfortably) to the page. Here, the standard fiction disclaimer that “any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental” was patently untrue, and I expect that the book’s guest star was none too pleased with his portrayal. Since I don’t know the author well enough to ask her, I thought I’d pose the question here: To what degree do you incorporate recognizable versions of real people in your own fiction, and have you run into some difficult situations as a result? Where and how do you draw the lines between fair game and off-limits?