5 Things To Consider When Turning Real Life into Fiction

This is a guest post by David Lazar of CometDocs.com

Everyone knows the old saying that “reality is sometimes stranger than fiction,” and this is why there are a lot of successful writers out there that base their stories on real life events that they have either personally experienced or have been informed of by others.

Looking to real life is one of the best ways to get an idea for a new story. Whether it is an event that has occurred in your personal life, a story you heard from a friend or even something that you might have seen on the news, real life events can inspire you to write and provide you with a good foundation for your next story.

However, it is important to know that, unless it’s an absolutely spectacular story on its own –– which is usually not the case –– there is a lot that you as a writer need to do in order to turn your recollection of a real life event into a fantastic work of fiction.

You’ll find that most stories based on real-life events are embellished and changed not because the writer felt uncomfortable with telling the story as it really occurred, but because, usually, the story just isn’t that interesting in its original form.

Here are some things to think about if you are looking to write quality fiction inspired by real-life events.

1.    Decide Whether Your Topic Is Worthy
First of all, you need to decide whether something is interesting enough to turn into a compelling work of fiction to begin with. More importantly, you need to see whether this real life event is a good enough basis for a good story – whether it has the potential to be turned into something interesting. Sometimes writers tend to be way too faithful to the original story when trying to write fiction stemming from real-life events.

Just because something really happened does not mean that you cannot embellish. In fact, embellishments are recommended. Sometimes the hardest part of taking a real story and turning it into fiction is being able to let go of the truth.

2.    Turn Everyday Events Into A Narrative
Even if you are telling the story of a person who has had a very interesting life, you need to be able to turn this story into a flowing and exciting narrative, because no matter how interesting someone’s life is, a day-to-day account of what they do is not really going to result in a real page-turner.

One of the hardest things about telling a real story is to try and fit the most interesting and dramatic events into the form of a narrative, making it a true story, with a beginning, climax and resolution, not just a journal of an interesting person’s everyday habits.

3.    Create the Details
No matter how great the story, it will not write itself. Even if the basis of the story is very exciting, you still need to work very hard on getting the details just right in order to keep the story interesting and to keep it moving along as a strong and entertaining narrative.

The problem with real-life stories — especially if you heard them on the news or from a friend –– is that they are all told in short. Fiction needs to be a detailed account, because you need to assume that the reader has no background or prior involvement with the story.

The trick is to write while being fully aware of the fact that you are writing for someone completely detached from the situation, with no prior references to the story. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and make sure that you build the story in detail and as thoroughly as possible.

4.    Develop A Real Plot
A fun or interesting story that you heard someone tell is essentially an event –– not a plot. The hardest part is determining whether or not this event has enough potential to become a good work of fiction. No matter how cute or funny you think the story is, it might not be able to carry a story.

Look at the event and identify everything around that event –– what led to it, what resulted from it, who was involved, how they were affected –– and then decided whether or not this has the potential to be turned into an interesting plot.

Can you imagine seeing a movie being made based on this event or does it seem like more of a sketch in a comedy show? If you see the potential to turn it into a feature film, then it might be a good candidate for becoming a strong work of fiction.

5.    Make Your Narrator Compelling
The point-of-view can make or break the story. The most important thing you need to decide on is who you want to have narrate the story. A lot of times, people tell a story as themselves, but remove their character from the plot, which tends to disconnect the reader from the story.

If you cannot develop the characters fully and are not able to tell the story whole-heartedly without including yourself as a major actor in the story, then don’t write in first-person. Writing in the third-person might give you a fresh perspective and more freedom to explore the characters, their relationships and the plot in general.

Remember, real life is interesting, but there is always room to make it a bit more exciting when trying to write a good work of fiction.

What tips do you have for turning real life into fiction?

About the Author: David Lazar is a regular blogger at CometDocs.com. With a background in journalism, he enjoys writing about and following a variety of topics, including creative writing, news writing, careers, technology and new media.

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