Roman a clef is a noun that refers to a work of art that features real people under the guise of fiction.
The French translation of our word of the day is ‘Novel with a key.’ The tradition of a fictional novel that is, in reality, a portrayal of real people dates back to the 19th century. Those novels included an actual key, meaning a list of the book’s characters and the real people they represented.
I suspect the deeply paranoid character in Daphne’s novel is really based on me. Everyone thinks the book is fiction, but I know it’s actually a roman a clef.