One of the fun things about being a storyteller is that you can change the way things really happened and turn a real event into a work of fiction. You have control of your story. You decide what happens,who it happens to and where it happens. Real people and events can provide great inspiration for fiction.
But having creative licence brings responsibility. You have to write with integrity. You don’t want to do things that will invade people’s privacy, you don’t want to upset them and you don’t want to get sued.
If you want to turn a true story into a work of fiction for whatever reason (like I did with Hope for Hanna), these are my tips on how you could do it:
- Step away from the true story as much as you can. Try and sift the essential elements of what your story is about from the detail of what really happened.
- Write down the main things (action points) that happen in the memoir/biography. Decide what’s important to you – what do you want to keep in your story?
- Decide where your story is going to start and where it’s going to end – this could be different from what actually happened in real life.
- Do a plot plan for your story with a beginning, a series of events leading to the climax (the high point of your story) and a conclusion tying all the threads together. Plot your story as you would a novel.
- Decide which characters to include in the work of fiction. In a memoir there are usually lots of people mentioned because real life is full of encounters, but you can cut some of these out if you are writing fiction. It can get confusing if you have too many characters or too much happening.
- Do a character profile for each person you want to include in your story, but make their background and details totally different from real life. Completely change names, places of residence, appearance, number of siblings, number of children, possibly even gender. Do what you can to make them unrecognisable in your story, whilst still being real people. It’s the essence of the people you want to capture in your story, not their detail.
- Use these characters to create fictional things in your story and you can blend these with the true events.
- Rework your plot outline to include true and fictional incidents you want to use. Perhaps change the order of events from what really happened.
- Try and sum up in a paragraph what you want your story to be about. Leave out any incidents/action that is not related.
- Get someone who knows you well to read your writing to make sure you have moved away enough from the true story.
- Try and feel your story and allow it to take you in new directions. Don’t fight against these changes because they are not what actually happened.
- Find the truth in your story in the power and complexity of your characters rather than the detail of actual events.
If you have any tips or experiences to share on how you have turned fact into fiction, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.
Our series of posts on point of view is coming up soon on this blog so stay tuned.
In the meantime,