HOW TO DISGUISE THE TRUE BITS IN YOUR STORY – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

A lot of what I write is based on something that actually happened. My YA novel Street Racer was written after I read an article in the paper about someone involved in a street racing accident.

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?

If you’re writing a biography or an autobiography there is no need to turn fact into fiction – in this instance, it’s best to stick to the facts.

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.

  1. Make the physical changes to the detail.
  2. Make the emotional changes inside you.

HOW TO MAKE THE PHYSICAL CHANGES

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.

Happy writing

Dee:-)

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “HOW TO DISGUISE THE TRUE BITS IN YOUR STORY – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

  1. But what happens when the things you write about come true AFTER you’ve written them?

    In the 6 months since I began my novel, ELEVEN incidents have come true. Some minor, some involving other people. Should I change them?

  2. That’s a really interesting question, JB.

    These are decisions you will have to make, but my rule of thumb is if it’s an incident that’s going to offend, upset or traumatise someone or lead to legal action then I would change it. Having said that, it can be impossible to write something that hasn’t happened to someone. I’ve had people come up to me after reading Letters to Leonardo and saying that this could have been their story. So there are some things that can’t be planned for. But if the incidents have happened to people you know or are close to then I would look at changing the circumstances or setting for the incidents and trying to make it as different as possible from what really happened.

    Hope this helps.

    Dee:-)

  3. Hey Dee

    Great post as always – and ohhhh so on the money.

    Recently I was talking to a man who had written his memoirs, he had them read by a literary lawyer before he published, the lawyer chareged him a HUGE fee and removed a heap of stuff so he wouldn’t be sued for deformation. Also he was told to remove a few incidents as:” no one will believe this really happened in true life”.

    Strange but true,

    I agree with you changing up a story, slapping a fiction label on it is much easier sometimes, than keeping to the truth. Now I am not saying, writing fiction is easy, I am backing you up – write fiction, use the truth bend it, shape it and make the story yours is a great way to form plots for books.

    Thanks as always for sharing your good ideas (that actually do work and are tried and tested) with us !

    Bye 4 now
    Tina

  4. Thanks Tina,

    Of course fantasy writers wouldn’t necessarily agree with me about using fact as the basis for your story – I really admire what they do – not sure I could do it that well myself though.

    Dee:-)

  5. Hi Dee,
    Thanks for this post. Enjoyed reading your tips about changing Fact into Fiction. When I rewrote my Memoir I had to disguise many characters, changing descriptions and names and purposefully not mentioning places and times.
    I had no idea that you’ve written so many stories. Congratulations … Cheers, Karen :))

Comments are closed.