Fact vs Fiction: Stories Based on Real Life

This past week, a fight broke out at the local high school.  Apparently it was “a big one” by whatever standards are used to quantify these things. The students who started it were not from our school and somehow accessed the building in spite of locked doors, students required to wear IDs and security guards.

One student reported to his mother that the school was on lockdown for two full classes.  Or so she claimed on Facebook.  Several other parents, parents I know, said that their children said no lockdown, the principal said no lockdown, and the announcement about the event didn’t mention a lockdown.  To which mom responded, “Are you calling my kid a liar?”

Writing about this as nonfiction would be tough.  Why would this kid like?  Why do some people talk about how strict the security is and others claim there is next to none?  How do you separate the fact from the fable?  It isn’t easy, but if you are going to write something like this up, you need to do it.

Writing this whole scenario up as a fictional story is an entirely different situation.  Let’s say that a girl let the boys in because one of them had a nice smile.  I don’t know that’s what happened.  I’m just spinning possibilities.  But if I wrote that in fiction, I’d have to make it pretty compelling.  Why would she do this?  Kids break rules in real life but in fiction they have to break them for a reason.

And what about the kid who is lying to his mother?  What if he isn’t?  Again this is my spinning a tale.  What if he is painfully honest and she’s lying to get her ex-husband the head of security fired?

One of the trickiest things about using reality to build fiction is knowing what to change.  Sometimes we hesitate to change how things happened when a change would create a more compelling, believable story.  Read your local paper.  Keep up on events at the local high school.  Both can lead to more story ideas than you have time to pursue.