->''"The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed, to protect the innocent."''
-->-- ''Franchise/{{Dragnet}}''

A fictional account of RealLife events, loaded with {{Captain Ersatz}}es of real people. These are often autobiographical or RippedFromTheHeadlines. These differ from InspiredBy and VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory in that the story is not [[{{Dramatization}} dramatized]], merely [[LawyerFriendlyCameo retold with different proper nouns]]. Historically, many of these have been great success merely from people in high society buying them to figure out if they are one of the characters.

The name is pronounced "Ro-''mahn'' ah ''clay''." It's French for, roughly, "novel with a key" (for which read: decoder ring). As seen [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_a_clef here]] on TheOtherWiki, sometimes the key to who the names were supposed to be would be published and in circulation. It has nothing at ALL to do with [[IncrediblyLamePun unusual Italian musical notation]], or [[Wiki/SCPFoundation Dr. Alto Clef]].

Compare VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory, {{Biopic}}, {{Docudrama}}, AnonymousRinger, HistoricalDomainCharacter. See also SpellMyNameWithABlank.
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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* The {{yuri}} manga ''Manga/HuskyAndMedley'', as well as the 2channel chat logs the story is based on, replaces the names of the protagonists with the nicknames given to them by 2ch anons as the story of their romance unfolded.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* TheFilmOfTheBook ''Film/{{Z}}'', mentioned below. During the opening credits, the text "Toute ressemblance avec des évènements réels, des personnes mortes ou vivantes n'est pas le fait du hasard" appears on the screen. The English translation: "Any similarity to actual events or persons, living or dead, is '''NOT''' accidental."
* ''Film/CitizenKane'' blends the line between ''mockumentary'' and this trope, as the character of Charles Foster Kane is loosely based on newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst did ''not'' take to the similarities kindly. Probably to keep Hearst from suing him, there is a line in the beginning of the film where one of the men who is making the documentary about the late Mr. Kane asks what makes him different from other famous newspaper magnates like Pulitzer, or Hearst. Mentioning Hearst as someone other than Kane meant lawyers could plausibly argue the character wasn't the real person. Legalities might also be part of the reason Kane buys his ingenue an opera house, as opposed to the movie studio Hearst purchased for Marion Davies. In RealLife, millionaire Samuel Insull built the Chicago Civic Opera House in order to feature his less-than-talented wife; if Hearst had sued Welles, RKO or Herman Mankiewicz, they could have claimed that the film was based on Insull as much as anyone else.
* The intro of ''TheGreatDictator'' references this.
* Film/TheThreeStooges shorts that knock at Nazi Germany. "Any resemblance to real persons or events is a crying shame."
* ''Film/PrimaryColors'' was a famous one. The novel it was based on was a thinly disguised portrait of the 1992 Democratic nomination race.
* ''Film/VelvetGoldmine''. Interesting in that it is two Roman a clef put together: that of David Bowie/the emergent glam rock scene as well as Citizen Kane (a Roman a clef itself), with bits of Oscar Wilde thrown in.
%%* ''Film/TheDevilWearsPrada''
* ''Film/AlmostFamous'' is a fictionalized autobiography of writer-director Cameron Crowe's teenage years as a writer for Rolling Stone, with the sort-of FakeBand Stillwater as expy of numerous bands he had encounters with in TheSeventies. (The band Stillwater existed IRL, just not with the songs played during the movie.)
* The plane crash at the start of ''FinalDestination'' is obviously based on TWA 800. It's same plane, same route, same cause, same group of students going to Paris; RogerEbert criticized this as being a bit tasteless.
* Creator/DavidFincher's 2007 film ''Film/{{Zodiac}}'', based on the novel of the same name by Robert Graysmith. The movie uses the real names of all the people involved, and is thus actually truer to real life than the book, which used pseudonyms at the time.
* ''Film/MyFavoriteYear'': Alan Swann is loosely based on Errol Flynn.
* Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical film ''Film/AllThatJazz''; which also functions as an exercise in SelfDeprecation.
* ''Film/TheRedShoes1948'' overlays the ''{{Faust}}'' legend on the life of the infamous ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev, despite claiming that "any similarity to real-life persons or events is completely accidental." The movie turns one of Diaghilev's real-life lovers into a woman but removes the sexual tension, so Boris Lermontov (the film's version of the impresario) still comes across as a diabolical homosexual.
* The members of Creator/MontyPython had to invoke this when critics of their Biblical satire ''Film/MontyPythonsLifeOfBrian'' accused them of making fun of Jesus, even though Jesus and Brian are two separate characters.
* Parodied in the faux disclaimer at the start of ''Film/AnchormanTheLegendOfRonBurgundy''
--> ''"The following is based on actual events. Only the names, locations, and events have been changed."''
* ''Film/{{Bombshell}}'' features JeanHarlow as Lola Burns, in a satirical take on the life of Clara Bow. Lola wants to get married and retire to the desert, which Bow did in RealLife.
* ''Film/{{Scarface1932}}'' is largely inspired by the life of Al Capone, but with plenty of fictional elements put in as well.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* The Vassilis Vassilikos novel ''Literature/{{Z}}'' writes about the assassination of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregoris_Lambrakis a left-wing politician]]. That it is a Roman A Clef is made particularly clear in TheFilmOfTheBook, above.
* Several of Melville's first novels - ''Typee'', ''Omoo'', and ''White-Jacket'', for example - are essentially factual accounts of his experiences.
* Many Hunter S. Thompson books - for example, ''FearAndLoathingInLasVegas'' - are novelizations for events in his life, with the names of he and his lawyer friend changed to aliases. This almost certainly helped [[ImplausibleDeniability avoid implicating himself in several felonies]] he somehow got away with.
* Some notable examples from Dutch literature:
** ''Literature/MaxHavelaar'', Eduard Douwes Dekker's famous account of his [[DownerEnding (failed)]] struggle to improve the lot of the Javanese under Dutch colonial rule.
** ''Onder professoren'' ('Among Professors') by Willem Frederik Hermans. It mocks some of the many enemies Hermans made while he was a lecturer at the University of Groningen.
** ''Het Bureau'' ('The Office', 'The Department') by [=J.J.=] Voskuil. Essentially a {{Sitcom}} in printed form, based on Voskuil's own experiences at the Department of Dialectology, Ethnology and Onomastics, a research institute funded by the Dutch government. The series consists of seven volumes and has ''[[{{Doorstopper}} five thousand]]'' pages in total.
* H.D.'s novel ''Asphodel'' contains a depiction of the literary world she moved in, with thinly-veiled portraits of such writers as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and D.H. Lawrence.
* ''News of a Kidnapping'' by GabrielGarciaMarquez is a novelized version of the kidnappings of reporters and other media personnel by Colombia's Medellin Cartel.
** There is also evidence that ''Literature/ChronicleOfADeathForetold'' was very inspired in a real case from the fifties, with enough similarities left under the name and circumstances changes that one of the surviving characters sued the writer for benefits. García Marquez used to be a journalist for trade, so several of his novels have some degree of this in the guise of {{Historical In Joke}}s.
* The Chilean book ''King Acab's Party''.
* Aldous Huxley's ''Point Counter Point''
* Joyce Carol Oates is very fond of fictionalizing real cases of murder and violent death, sometimes sticking very close to actual events but going inside the minds of the people involved, sometimes [[VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory departing much farther]]. Some examples (there are more) include ''My Sister My Love'' (Jon Benet Ramsey), ''Zombie'' (Jeffrey Dahmer), ''Black Water'' ([[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chappaquiddick_incident the Chapaquiddick scandal]]), "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" ([[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Schmid Charles Schmid]]), "Dear Husband" (Andrea Yates), and "Landfill" ([[http://www.phillymag.com/scripts/print/article.php?asset_idx=228955 John Fiocco]]).
* The ''DearAmerica'' series, which is in diary format. Usually it will recreate things that happened in history, only on a smaller scale and before the actual event happens.
* Although Proust denied it, ''In Search Of Lost Time'' is rife with barely hidden {{Captain Ersatz}}es of his contemporaries, such as [[CampGay Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac]].
* Harper Lee's ''Literature/ToKillAMockingbird'' is based off of her childhood as well as the Scottsboro Trials.
* Elie Weisel's ''Literature/{{Night}}'' is generally labeled a novel, although it is an account of his experiences
* ''GraveOfTheFireflies'', which was based on the author's childhood during and after WorldWarII, except in this case, his AuthorAvatar, Seita, dies with his sister, Setsuko. The author had blamed himself for the death of his sister from malnutrition and had written the novel as a way to make amends to her.
* ''Literature/IslandOfTheBlueDolphins'', which tells the story of the "Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island."
* ''Literature/PrimaryColors'', which used Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential campaign as inspiration.
* Creator/EdgarAllanPoe's "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" was in fact an account of the real-life murder of Mary Rogers, written and published while the crime was still in the newspapers and unsolved. In it Poe's detective Dupin learns of the crime solely from newspaper reports and presents his theory of how it was committed - which in fact is exactly what Poe himself did in writing the story.
* In 1962, Kerry Wendell Thornley wrote a novel called ''TheIdleWarriors'' about a strange young man he had met while in the United States Marine Corps. That young man's name? ''[[WhoShotJFK Lee Harvey Oswald]]''.
* The vast majority of Jack Kerouac's novels are simply retellings of things that happened to him and the other Beat writers, with the names changed (and some parts taken out, as the first draft of ''On The Road'' reveals). ''On The Road'' and ''Visions of Cody'' focus on his best friend Neal Cassady, ''The Dharma Bums'' is about his adventures with Gary Snyder, ''And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks'' (written with William S. Burroughs) was about a mutual friend who murdered a lover, and so forth. It became so well-known that the publisher insisted he use different character names in each book to prevent legal trouble for anyone involved, but [[http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1385865 they can still be decoded easily]].
* ''Compulsion'', based on the Leopold & Loeb murder case, investigation, and trial. Told partially in [[SelfInsertFic first person]] - author Meyer Levin was a fraternity brother of Loeb's, though Leopold didn't remember him when Levin visited him in prison.
* ''Literature/ThePictureOfDorianGray'' by OscarWilde is often called a ''roman à clef''. However, in this case the "key" is not that it's based on specific people, but that [[GettingCrapPastTheRadar it's about homosexuality]].
* Thomas Mann's ''Literature/{{Buddenbrooks}}'' which is, for all intents and purposes, the history of his family (with the author himself being Thomas Buddenbrook's son Hanno).
* The first novel of Chilean writer Creator/IsabelAllende, ''Literature/TheHouseOfTheSpirits'', is essentially a name-and-some-details-changed version of the history of her country and her family. This isn't the only novel of hers where she did that: ''The Infinite Plan'' is in the middle between this trope and VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory on regards the life of her second husband; and while the plot and characters of ''Eva Luna'' are original, the setting and backgrounds events are so heavily inspired by the then-recent history of Venezuela (the country Allende was living when writing the book) isn't even funny.\\
\\
This trope is also played in a very meta way in ''Literature/EvaLuna'': the soap opera Eva ends writing turns out to be the very book we're reading (which, by the way, is mostly her autobiography and the biography of her love interests), and her {{transsexual}} actress friend ends interpreting herself and her transition to great success and acclaim.
* Dave Peltzer's autiobiographical trilogy did this.
* ''Literature/LesLiaisonsDangereuses'' was popularly thought to be one of these. Several keys circulated around ''ancien regime'' France. Since several of the characters aren't very nice people, part of that was simple slander (though for what it's worth, the novelist Creator/{{Stendhal}} claimed that he had met the woman who inspired Mme de Merteuil when he was a child and she was an old, old lady.)
* Mordecai Richler's ''SolomonGurskyWasHere'' is a weird mix of reportage and total madness. The stuff about a family of Canadian Jewish bootleggers who got rich during Prohibition and then became philanthropists? Based very, very closely on the real-life Bronfman family. The stuff with the Franklin expedition's secretly Jewish doctor and sole survivor, the faked death in a plane crash, the mystic ravens? Not so much.
* ''The Making Of Series/TheGoodies Disaster Movie'' inverted this, revolving around a totally fake story but starring real people without names changed. The back of the book did a ''Franchise/{{Dragnet}}''-parodying disclaimer: "The story you're about to hear is true. [[DocumentaryOfLies Only the facts have been changed, to make it more interesting.]]"
* University don Dr Malcolm Bradbury was also a literary novelist. The only one of his books that got anywhere near "best seller" status was ''The History Man'', a thinly autobiographical account where a MartyStu character stalks the campus of what in the 1970's would have been a "new" university. Marty Stu is young, hip, intellectual, loved by the students - reciprocated more often than is wise in the case of his female undergrads, a man who communicates History and English Lit in an exciting and fresh and unstuffy way. Naturally his less intellectually gifted, stuffier and priggish colleagues grow jealous and attempt to stifle the new and exciting talent in their midst, but Professor Marty Stu thwarts them at every turn. The book is a VERY thin disguise of the University of UsefulNotes/EastAnglia, Norwich, and some of its teaching staff - characters who can so easily be identified by anyone who was around UEA in the time period 1970-86. In fact, the BBC got to film part of their TV adaptation at UEA....
* Creator/GeorgeMacDonaldFraser's ''Literature/McAuslan'' series of books, thinly disguised slices of the author's service in the Gordon Highlanders between 1946 - 48. Real people, including "Colonel J.F.G. Gordon" have been identified in the books, as have some of the events described.
* ''Literature/DarknessAtNoon'' borders on this: Rubashov is obviously a fictional character, though the author's note explains that his life is "a synthesis of the lives of a number of men who were victims of the so-called Moscow Trials." The novel bears the stamp of this genre most definitely in its refusal to name countries, though their identities are utterly obvious.
* HHHH (Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich) is this in spades, and the novelist Laurent Binet does interrupt the novel in between for a small paragraph where he states he is not sure how ''exactly'' things went he's just trying to paint a pretty picture of how it could've gone. He doesn't know ''what'' train someone took or if anybody else was in the coupé, but he ''does'' know he took a train. Several [[UrbanLegend Urban Legends]] are [[InvokedTrope invoked]] when he literally states he's using something based on Word of Mouth.
* Many HaroldRobbins novels qualify, most notably ''The Carpetbaggers'' (inspired, in part, by HowardHughes) and ''Where Love Has Gone'' (based on the Lana Turner/Joey Stompanato scandal).
* ''La Dame aux camélias'' by AlexandreDumas, fils is based on the tragically short life of the famous courtesan Marie Duplessis, whom Dumas had an affair with. The AuthorAvatar is the transparently named Armand Duval.
* ''The Fixer'' by Bernard Malamud is based on the blood-libel trial of Mendel Beilis, going so far as to lift a good number of passages from Beilis's memoir ''The Story of My Sufferings''.
* ''Junky'', or depending on the version ''Junkie'', by WilliamSBurroughs is essentially an account of his life as a drug addict and dealer, but with the names changed, though he didn't much bother with his own, changing it to William Lee, which he also used as an author pseudonym for this book.
* ''Literature/APortraitOfTheArtistAsAYoungMan'' is an account of Creator/JamesJoyce's life up to the point where he left Ireland in self-imposed exile. Joyce changed the names, using some of those of real people for characters that don't stand in for them, and shuffled around some of the scenes, but reading ''My Brother's Keeper'', a memoir by Stanislaus Joyce about how it had been like to grow up with James Joyce is like reading ''A Portrait'' all over again.
* ''Literature/BrownsPineRidgeStories'': The names of individuals who were still alive at the time of its publishing in May 2014 were changed or [[NoNameGiven omitted altogether]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Many police procedurals, starting with the archetypal ''Franchise/{{Dragnet}}''. Other examples include some of Jack Webb's other series, such as ''Series/AdamTwelve'', although that often drifts into [[VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory Very Loosely Based]] territory.
** Modern day procedurals often keep the criminal's real name (if convicted). Which makes for a crappy protection as simply googling the murderer's name will reveal the real name of his victims.
** Hilariously enough, TVGuide once quoted (during the run of the short-lived reboot series) a producer from ''{{Franchise/Dragnet}}'' as saying that he told the writers to just make a story up, and chances were that something like it happened somewhere.
** Something similar happened on one of Webb's own productions, ''Series/ProjectUFO'' (with cases drawn from the U.S. Air Force's "Project Blue Book" reports), according to series star Edward Winter:
--->'''Winter:''' As I understand the story, the Air Force finally got tired of looking at us, because they said "Anything your writers can dream up, we can find... There are over 12,000 cases in the Blue Book report." So instead of finding it first and then writing about it, they let the writers write it and ''then'' they go find one like it!
* [=McGee=] in ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' writes books falling into this trope.
* It's widely implied that Temperance Brennan in {{Bones}} does this, too.
* On ''BarneyMiller'' Harris's book "Blood on the Badge" was based on his experiences as a NY cop. He got all his colleagues to sign waivers (or whatever it's called, to allow their likenesses in the book), but he didn't bother with an AmbulanceChaser that he had occasional dealings with and who was in the book. When the lawyer found out about the book he sued Harris for defamation (or something) and bankrupted him.
* ''Series/AbsolutelyFabulous''
* The ''[[Series/StarTrekVoyager Voyager]]'' episode "Author Author" deconstructs this by having the Doctor create a Roman a clef holo-novel with himself as the hero and thinly disguised versions of his shipmates as the villains.
* ''{{Entourage}}'' is based on Mark Walberg's metoric rise to fame and notoriety.
* ''GenerationKill'' uses this on occasion; while most of the protagonist Marines are known by their actual names, a couple of the [[TheNeidermeyer less competent officers]] are referred to only by their nicknames. Captain America, Kasey Kasem, and Encino Man are probably the best examples (they were never named in the original book either, in a specific attempt by the author to avoid having them be targets later).
* The characters of Ron and Mark on ''ParksAndRecreation'' are loosely based on real people whom the creators met while researching the show. Notably, the person who inspired Ron was a woman, if you can imagine (like Ron, she was a Libertarian who didn't believe in the mission of her own job).
* The 50's sci-fi show ''One Step Beyond'' was allegedly this. In many cases the veracity of the strange plots of the episodes can actually be confirmed.
* The BBC adaptation of novelist/university lecturer Malcolm Bradbury's ''The History Man'' (see above).
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Radio]]
* Again, ''{{Radio/Dragnet}}''.
* ''TheGoonShow'' had an episode, "The Whistling Spy Enigma" with Peter Sellers, that did a ''Franchise/{{Dragnet}}''-parodying intro:
-->The crimes you are about to hear have all been specially committed for this program.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theater]]
* ''TheGlassMenagerie'' by Tennessee Williams is widely believed to be essentially autobiographical.
* TheMusical ''Louisiana Purchase'' opens with [[OurLawyersAdvisedThisTrope a lawyer writing to the producer and writers of the show]], telling them their story is too close to RealLife, and people will know whom they're alluding to even though they've changed the names. But there is an easy way out: change the setting to a [[NoCommunitiesWereHarmed mythical state]] which can even "still be Louisiana," and it will then be OK as fiction.
* Creator/BertoltBrecht's ''Theatre/TheResistibleRiseOfArturoUi'' tells of the rise to power of AdolfHitler up to the Night of the Long Knives, but tells it through the setting of a MobWar in 1930s [[{{gangsterland}} Chicago]]. Quoting from TheOtherWiki: "All the characters and groups in the play had direct counterparts in real life, with Ui representing Hitler, his henchman Ernesto Roma representing Ernst Röhm, Dogsborough representing Paul von Hindenburg (a pun on the German Hund and Burg), Emanuele Giri representing Göring, the Cauliflower Trust representing the Prussian Junkers, the fate of the town of Cicero standing for the Anschluss in Austria and so on."
* ''Theatre/CyranoDeBergerac'': A strange case of a subverted Roman A Clef where the names did not change combined with a VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory: According to [[http://cyranose.wikispaces.com/the+real+Cyrano this wiki about the play]]:
-->''"Everything that happens in the play actually occurred in Cyrano’s life [[VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory except what many now remember about the story: his unrequited love for Roxane]]"''
* Max Frisch's play ''Andorra'' is quite obviously not set in Andorra, but rather in another small mountainous country, namely Frisch's homeland Switzerland.
* ''Kanadehon Chūshingura'' is a puppet show (later adapted to Kabuki) that tells the tale of TheFortySevenRonin. Due to the Shogunate's censorship laws, however, the names are changed and it is nominally set in the UsefulNotes/SengokuJidai, instead of the Edo period.
* ''Theatre/InheritTheWind'', a dramatization of the Scopes Monkey Trial with names changed and some dramatic liberties taken (in particular, Matthew Brady dying at the end of the trial, whereas William Jennings Bryan didn't die until five days after).
* Discussed in ''Theatre/TheMoonIsBlue'': Patty once had an affair with a writer, and months after breaking up with him was shocked to read a short story in ''Magazine/TheNewYorker'' written by him telling what was identical to the story of their break-up except for the names.
* ''Theatre/LongDaysJourneyIntoNight'' is based more or less on episodes from Eugene O'Neill's own youth. O'Neill deliberately refused to allow the play to be published or produced until after his death, probably out of worry that he would be too closely identified with the play's protagonist, Edmund Tyrone. (O'Neill had a brother named Edmund who died in infancy, like Edmund Tyrone's brother Eugene.)
[[/folder]]
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