Including real historical figures in fiction book.

by David
(Scottsville, NY, USA)

Question: Any pitfalls with including real historical figures having small functions in my historical novel. i.e. a short interaction between my main character and the real figure General Montcalm?

PS. Love your site. thanks for all the great help.

Answer: Thanks for the kind comments.

As always, I'm not a lawyer and can't give legal advice. However, I think you're on pretty safe ground, since Montcalm has been dead for over 200 years.

The only time you can get in trouble is when you portray recently deceased individuals (or ones still alive) in an unflattering manner such that you threaten or damage the financial interests of their families. By recently deceased, I mean that their widows, children, or possibly grandchildren are still alive and still derive a financial benefit from the famous person's reputation.

Even then, there are exceptions for politicians, since criticizing or satirizing political leaders is an essential feature of democracy, protected by the right to free speech.

You will see famous historical persons appear frequently in literature and film, whether as walk-on roles or main characters.

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