I'm writing a story where the main character is going into different parallel universes.

Can you get in trouble for referencing a real person or thing if they’re in one of those different universes?

  • I've seen it done frequently with well-known historical figures. Living people who are private citizens might be a different story. I have to say, however, I don't personally care for this when I've seen it. Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 2:37
  • Living people are tricky, but Philip Jose Farmer famously populated his world with every person to have ever lived in human history. Beat that! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Your_Scattered_Bodies_Go
    – DWKraus
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 2:54

2 Answers 2


I'd say the golden rule is: If a person or thing is recognizable in your alternative universes, the fact that they exist in a universe other than our own makes no difference.

Meaning: If it would be okay to mention them in our universe then it would be perfectly fine to mention them in your parallel universe.

  1. A public figure or idea that you'd mention in our universe, I think is perfectly fine to mention in a parallel one.
  2. A private figure, who could be based on the facts you give, you should asked for permission before using them in your book. Unless the fact that it's a parallel universe distorts the facts so much that they can no longer be recognized. In which case, it does help that it's a parallel universe.

Hope this helps.

  • Thanks for your reply Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 23:37


As I know, some video game companies had problems with celebrities because of characters who were similar to them. I think it does not depend on the universe (real or parallel) - it depends just on the fact that you use a public figure in your story. You have to be incredibly careful not to include undesirable information about this person. Also, if you write about someone who you know personally, you should ask their permission.

Unfortunately, I do not have appropriate links at the hand now, but you may look for good articles on this matter like Kathryn Goldman’s How to Use Celebrities and Other Real People in Your Story or Kathy Murphy’s Keeping It Real: A Rough Guide To Using Real People As Fictional Characters. These articles are not very fresh but still work.

Hope it helps!

  • Thanks for the reply! I'm going to just write this book basically for myself, and not publish it. I would let my friends read it though because I have some really bizarre things happening in the different chapters in my book Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 2:22
  • @VictorGlock Best of luck with your work :)
    – Irene
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 20:38

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