Hope for Hanna is based on real events that happened to a number of people and Harry’s Goldfield Adventure (coming out August 2010) has a factual setting, but the story is purely fictional.
My YA novel Letters to Leonardo, started with a story that was told to me by a friend, and one of the book’s characters is a person that I actually know.
SO, WHY CHANGE FACT INTO FICTION?
When I wrote A Duel of Words, I had to be creative about the way I told Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson’s story, but I had to be meticulous about the factual detail.
But if you’re writing a novel and making things up about your characters, you need to change the facts because:
- What you make up could offend or hurt someone if you name a real person.
- Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction and people wont’ believe it. In high school I had to write a love story so I wrote about how my parents first met. The teacher’s comment was that the story was well written but ‘not credible’. (Even though it was all true).
HOW TO CHANGE FACT INTO FICTION
To me there are two steps you need to take to disguise the true bits in your story.
- Make the physical changes to the detail.
- Make the emotional changes inside you.
Letters to Leonardo is based on some real people, real events and real places. I spent a lot of time creating new scenarios, places, people and events so that I could disguise the things and people that could be recognised. Here are some of the steps you can take to hide the ‘true bits’.
- Change names of characters and places
- Add or remove people from the event
- Change the setting
- Change the time/era in which the story took place
- Combine real events from different sources
- Change the details of the actual event – eg a cat stuck up a tree could become a dog stuck in a drain pipe.
It’s all about using your imagination. Look at it as a challenge. How could you tell someone’s story without them recognising it? How could you tell your own story and people not know it’s you? Think of your facts as being treasure that you have to bury beneath ‘creative’ detail.
Sometimes it can help to draw up a two column table with the real events/people/names etc in one column, and the second column devoted to the ‘made up’ bits.
HOW TO MAKE THE EMOTIONAL CHANGES
I find I’m only able to fictionalise ‘true events’ in my life once I have been able to emotionally distance myself from them.
Maybe this is the same for you – maybe you need time to allow something to become a story in your mind rather than a traumatic event.
Fact can be a great basis for fiction – it’s just how you handle it.
I hope that you have found these tips helpful.