I Have a Question

Would you add the criminal case, or would you steer clear of it?

Hi, Guys!

I’ve been working on a story, and I have a question. There was a criminal case brought against a popular television actor. The young man claimed two males had assaulted and beaten him outside his Chicago hotel. The men had hurled racist epithets and hung a noose around his neck. I’m teasing this titillating case in a tale I’m working on.

QUESTION: Would you add the criminal case, or would you steer clear of it?

We risk lawsuits when we slander real people, but this actor was tried and found guilty. If I stick to the facts, there should no libel or slander risk. My story is a romance, but the news story intrigues my female character. 


Georgina Dotson returned the stare of the attractive man who rode shotgun in a garbage truck moseying down the narrow alleyway behind her apartment building. Many feet separated them—she on her back porch and he on the moving vehicle—but Georgina saw his dark, Michael Jordan handsome face. 

Last week she’d looked up from her book and found him staring at her. If it happened one more week, she’d yell out and introduce herself.

She chuckled. The older she got, the more she sounded like her feisty, paternal grandma—not the grandma she looked like. She looked like her mother’s mother, who didn’t move unless Daddy Jansen said so. 

Even Gigi’s parents joked they were lucky to have fallen in love before Daddy Jansen discovered George Dotson was darker than the paper bag by which he measured his children’s prospective mates.

The truck slowed and she saw the man’s smile widen. Her block was the last on his route. Maybe he wasn’t looking at her at all. Maybe he was thinking about tonight. 

Weary days could conjure up dreams about free time. A month ago, her own weary days had driven her to flee a newspaper gig she realized she couldn’t do for the rest of her life. 

She’d covered two shootings, a local plane crash, three fatal car crashes, and one Lake Michigan drowning in the week before she left. She’d reached out, but management refused to free her from the crime beat. COVID had wiped out staff, and she was good at it. 

In April, Gigi had surprised herself by getting up from her desk and declaring, “I’m through. I can’t do this anymore.”

Reporter, Olympia Fields cocked her brow and warned Gigi. “Don’t throw away this good paying job.”

Gigi walked over to Olympia’s cubby.

“You’re wrong, Olympia. I’m not throwing away anything. I foresee a great paying job where I call the shots. That will never happen here!” So, armed with her own flash drives, The paper’s printer ink and computer paper, Gigi had marched out. In a month or two, she planned be on her way to blogging success.

Ha! What a laugh! She’d been sitting on this back porch for two months. The dog days of August were on her, and she hadn’t found one story to get her back on track. Who knew that working without a threat of horrors to cover and a deadline would be so hard. When had she become so selective? 

Each morning she wasted precious time combing through other people’s work, each article more interesting than the last. They were way better than anything she could produce. How long would it take her to catch up? 

A case of a tv star accused of faking his own attempted kidnapping and assault was the only thing that had piqued her interest. This case could be the start of investigating and reporting on subjects she chose. 

Gigi chewed her bottom lip and thought. The couple of online articles she’d read didn’t seem to have anything new, but there was always something else. Her ten years of contacts might help do a more thorough analysis of this. 

Winifred Langston, Gigi’s former college roommate and clerk to the police chief’s secretary, was her first call. “You didn’t hear this from me, Gigi, but they arrested two guys and it’s not looking good for that actor. They say he hired them to fake the beating and noose him.”

“Has he said anything?” Gigi asked.

Thanks for reading to the end. Please let me hear your opinion about the life/slander thing. Would you add the criminal case, or would you steer clear of it?

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Educator, Author, Blogger, and supporter of Independent Writers. One mystery novel, The Neon Houses, http://amzn.to/2kSqdPX. Find me on Twitter @boom_lyn.

11 thoughts on “I Have a Question

  1. I think it’s find to keep the criminal case but change it up enough that you wouldn’t make yourself libel for a law suit. That wouldn’t be worth it.

  2. I love your excerpt, Linda, although if it were me I’d steer clear of the criminal case. At the very least, change the circumstances enough to make it unrecognizable. Sadly, people sue today for all kinds of reasons, even when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

  3. Linda, I agree with the other comments. Best to change up the details and not be specific to the actual case. That seems safer. The excerpt is intriguing, lets have some more!!

  4. I agree with Karen. Perhaps change the story so it’s a singer, not an actor. Or make him a female singer/actress. Perhaps remove kidnapping and just make it assault. Maybe change the details of the assault. That case was very public, and I would want to stay clear of any backlash. Other than that, I’m loving the excerpt. I can’t wait to read the rest of it.

    Yvette M Calleiro 🙂

  5. Personally, I would stay away from the actual criminal case. You can modify it to make it more or less recognizable if it moves the story forward and still get the same result. I would also include the “entire story is created from the author’s imagination” language at the outset, just in case.

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