December 3rd, 2008

Legalities of using real people / real institutions in novel...

My story is set during the whole year leading up to the 2008 Olympiad, beginning in Texas, spending a few months in California, and eventually culminating at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Kyoto, Japan. I'm trying to figure out what the legalities are when an author chooses to use real people as characters, or refer to real institutions in a book.

I ask for two reasons. First, one of the characters in my novel is attending the University of Texas. I've been struggling to avoid mentioning the full name or referring to the longhorn mascot, etc. because I was worried about the legality of using it in the first place, especially if I am not showing it in the best light. I know it has trademarked logos and etc, and it's a State school. I know people who've gotten in trouble just for printing the UT logo on a cheap t-shirt without getting it approved first--and that was just a shirt. Novels have a much wider audience, and if my characters are making a few disparaging remarks about UT policies, wouldn't that be bad for similar reasons? I'm not intending to slander, and it's only a fraction of the larger story. But it's still not a glowing recommendation for one of their particular sport program policies.

The second part of my question arises because I'd really love to use this Japanese man, Shun Fujimoto, in my novel as the official person who lights the Olympic Torch. At most, he would appear in my novel probably through an interview or something on TV showing his incredible story, and then during the Opening Ceremonies as he lights the Torch (in a cool way I have not yet figured out). I'd really love to use him because his story embodies a lot of the Japanese ideas towards honor in sport. As long as I keep it realistic and not slandering, there wouldn't be any problem having this man appear in my fictional novel, right? A friend tried to tell me it didn't matter because his actions in the '76 Games were in the public eye, and since he is famous, his story is kind of free to be shared.

I feel like I'm trying to blend fiction and non-fiction. I don't know what rules apply, and I'm having trouble finding a resource to help. Any ideas? A Google search on "writing nonfiction legality" was wide enough to bring in "legal writing" and "nonfiction writing" results, but nothing helpful. I also Googled terms like writers + "legal issues" which was still too wide a search. I dug through Writer's Digest online. I did find this helpful article, but that talks about brand names. I don't know if a state university is a brand.

Any help clearing up these details would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks in advance!
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severance pay for literary agent

So, I have a character who is a literary agent at a prestigious literary agent. NYC, modern day.

From my understanding, they're paid on commission and take ten to 20 percent from a sale. So, no paychecks every two weeks, right? Correct me if I'm wrong! My character has been with the agency for well over a decade and has made several lucrative deals. But he can't perform his job anymore and was asked to leave.

Would he be given a severance package? I was thinking a month for every year worked -- too much?

And because I'm curious -- what additional benefits do agents get? Medical, dental, 401K, etc.?

Resources: Googled "literary agent pay," "literary agent salary," "day in life of literary agent," "literary agent severance pay," "literary agent severance package," "do commissioned workers get severance pay?" and lots more.

Visited Miss Snark and typed in things like "salary," "lay/laid off," "severance," etc.

Visited Preditors and Editors. Did some general looking around and looked at a lot of listed agencies.

Visited The Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc. Checked out the FAQs, but that was geared towards writers.

I've the feeling that this will end up as one of those questions that allow me to decide the outcome, ha. Really, all of this will amount to a sentence or two. Oh, well.

Experience of Ecstasy?

Sadly, all my knowledge of the experience of being on Ecstasy comes from Beverly Hills 90210 and Dawson's Creek. I could use a first-hand perspective. I've googled for basic signs and symptoms (and side effects), but I'd like some more experiential info. The processing of sensations, how is that changed? The touchy thing -- how powerful is that? What is craved, what is reviled?

And coming down, what's that like? How long does it take, what are the effects that disappear first, and last? What sort of lingering effects are there -- anything analogous to a hangover? (Teen dramas tell me that there is no come down, that there is only the inevitable trip to Emergency with heart palpitations or pre-stroke symptoms, and then the next-day regrets. Teen dramas are not an excellent source of information about life.)