One Writer’s Journey

January 12, 2015

Basing Fiction on Fact

Use your life to fuel your writing.

Ifact based fiction 5 tips‘m sure you’ve heard that before, but when it comes to actually writing based on true events, things get tricky.  Here are 5 tips to get your story off the ground.

  • Start with the core truth.  What is it that made you think the event would make a great story?  Some events are simply so suspenceful and emotionally overwhelming that they won’t let us go.  Other times, we are inspired by a mystery solved or a courageous act.  Occassionaly it is one of those “I didn’t know this, did you know this” moments of truth.  Start with this element as you rough out your story.
  • Check your characters.  Take a hard look at your characters.  Some people who write fact-based stories get the permission of everyone involved before they write.  Personally, I fictionalize things to the point that this isn’t necessary.  In my mind, that’s just easier than getting the go ahead and then dealing with the fall out if someone doesn’t like their portrayal.
  • Revamp your names.  Last but not least, take a good hard look at your names.  If you are fictionalizing things to the extreme, you can’t simply rename your cousin Billy Willy in the story.  You can’t change the name of the town from Ste. Genevieve to St. Gwendolyn.  Come up with your own names.
  • Let it sit.  After you’ve finished a draft, let it sit.  This is going to be especially important if you took part in the “real events” and then penned the story.  It is doubly familiar and needs to cool a bit before you try to evaluate it.
  • Separate fact and fiction.  Once the story has cooled, take another look at it.  Have you created a solid fictional story?  This is especially hard to do wiht a fact-based story because we tend to stick too close to reality.  You may not know what your neighbor’s motivations were in reality, or they may have been truly strange, but you can’t get by with that in fiction.  Your characters have to have solid motivations that make sense.  One event has to logically lead to another.  Now is the time to make your story work as a story.  You may need to have your critique group read it to help you find the places that need work.

Basing stories on real life is one way to create pieces that ring with emotional truth, but making reality work as fiction is a hard job.  Are you up to it?

–SueBE

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