Writing a novel based, even in part, on true events or real people is a very tricky affair. If a novel is based on facts, the facts are never good enough as they stand, simply because the motives behind the acts that made the facts rarely make sense, at least to rational people. And the people who made the decisions, whether spontaneous or premeditated, that brought those facts into being can get really upset if they suspect they might have proved a role model for a character in a book.
Of course, every person in the world could suspect themselves as a role model for some novel’s character, given, A) the number of people in the world, and, B) the number of novels published, especially today. Somebody somewhere will, should they read the right novel, identify themselves as a character portrayed. The trick for the author is to make sure that notes and records are kept, their clippings, their research, and their resources well-documented, whether their novel characters are, in fact, based on a real set of incidents and real people, then modified to fit a completely fictitious story, or whether the entire novel is a completely fictitious creation. That way, if someone somewhere reads the novel and decides, “Hey, that’s me,” the author can prove that, “No, that isn’t you. This story used no facts at all, and was complete fabrication, and here’s my drafts, outlines, and plot maps to prove it,” or “the facts and incidents came from these newspaper stories, these psychological profiles, a framework based on completely contrived posits jotted by me in a plot scheme here, and work-throughs conceived after a critique or brain-storming session here.”
“But that’s me in that news article,” sputters the accuser (in the case where the author used real life incidents rather than complete fabrication).
“But this isn’t you in this news article, is it?” responds said author.
AUTHOR: “And this one?”
AUTHOR: “And what about these?” (Author waves another thirteen articles in front of the accuser.)
AUTHOR: “Well, since my character and story is a sifted composite, not just of these fifteen non-related newspaper articles, along with anonymous psychological profiles compiled in [research book titles], as well as a completely contrived time, setting, and set of circumstances, how can you claim that this character and story is all about you?”
…In short, they can’t.