roman a clef

A novel that tells a loosely disguised true story, using fictional names for the characters, can be called a roman a clef.

Both The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway are believed by many to be romans a clef, stories based on events in the authors' actual lives. The characters in both books have made-up names, but like many romans a clef, they are recognizable as real people. In French, roman à clef means "novel with a key," with the "key" being the hints the writer gives about the relationship between fact and fiction.

Definitions of roman a clef
  1. noun
    a novel in which actual persons and events are disguised as fictional characters
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    type of:
    novel
    an extended fictional work in prose; usually in the form of a story
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