Dear Author Margo,
My ex finally got a novel published and I swear one of the characters, a selfish, insensitive jerk who is killed by a wild boar, is based on me. Can my ex get away with this?
Dear Dumped and Literate,
The first (sometimes only) lesson writers learn is to “write what you know.” After watching Riding in Cars with Boys, I learned another lesson—fiction writers have it a lot easier when it comes to literally shafting people in their books.
In the movie, Drew Barrymore’s character wrote a book about her life so she couldn’t get away with lying about everything. Because of this, she had to track down her junkie ex to get him to sign a release so her memoir could be published without the worry her junkie ex would hook up with a third rate lawyer and a bottom feeding reporter from Inside Edition and cause all sorts of literal grief for her publishing career. In the spirit of accuracy, I’m going to admit this was maybe before Inside Edition, but definitely not before third rate lawyers who have existed since time infinitum. Anyway, she had a hard time getting him to sign the papers, but he finally did and her memoir, also titled Riding in Cars with Boys, was published and made into a movie about a woman trying to get her junkie ex to sign release papers so her memoir could be published.
I’m not lawyer, not even a third rate one, but I’m pretty sure your ex was smart enough to fictionalize your wretchedness enough to cover her butt (the fiction ex is blond jerk, you’re a bald jerk, so on and so forth). While your chances of winning anything court, no matter what your third rate lawyer tells you, are slim to none, you can bitch all you want to your friends who will buy her novel, bolstering sales which will bring it to the attention of some producer who will option it and make into a movie.
So what’s the moral of this whole burrito? A girl who does more than ride in cars with boys can write a book and have Drew Barrymore play her in the big Hollywood movie. And the ex? He’s probably still living in a trailer, but at least he wasn’t killed by a wild boar.
Next Week: The Much Too Much Question