One of the most time-tested methods of producing great fiction novels is adapting a true story. Truth, it seems, is stranger than fiction, and for writers, it is a great starting point for one’s imagination to take flight.
But writing a fiction story based on true events is a bit tricky. The writer needs to walk a fine line between truth and fiction. Here are some tips for writing fiction based on true events:
1. Start with the truth.
There is much to explore in our life experiences, and one can write a great story out of these experiences. Begin by writing the story close to what happened as possible, but make sure you know central premise of your story. When you are clear about what your story hinges on, you can be more objective as to how much of the real events you are going to weave into your fictional story.
2. Get permission.
When your fictional characters closely resemble the real people they’re based on and they are recognizable, you may need to ask permission. You may need to explain to them that your story is a work of fiction but has some elements of their lives in it. Telling them how the story can benefit the readers can help get you the permission you are seeking. Consider also changing the names of real people so as to avoid potential lawsuits.
3. Do your research.
Do as much research as you can on the facts of the story. Although you are not honor bound to include all the factual elements in your story, there are always aspects of the real event that you can add to your final narrative that can take your story to a new level.
4. Be flexible and let the story run.
Don’t allow the truth to compromise your fictional story. Remember that you’re writing a story about fictional characters and you are free to change any element that you think is not good for the story. Don’t let the real event get in the way of a good narrative. Let the story run and leave the facts completely behind.
5. Edit your work.
Editing your work is a great way to see which factual elements that you have incorporated are working and which ones are just getting in the way to a great story and needs changing. Remember that the facts are not as important as the emotional truth of the event. Emotional truth transcends facts and is what stirs and lingers with the readers.
Real life offers rich material for a great story. With a bit of caution, patience, and practice you can write a story that lingers long after the book is closed.
Filmmaking Lifestyle. “Writing Fiction Based on True Events: A Definitive Guide.” Accessed July 23, 20123. https://filmlifestyle.com/writing-fiction-based-on-true-events/.
Grover, Lorie Ann. “6 Tips for Writing Fiction Based on True Events.” Last modified December 26, 2014. https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/6-tips-for-writing-fiction-based-on-true-events.
Master Class. “How to Write Fiction Based on a True Story.” Last modified August 10, 2021. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-fiction-based-on-a-true-story.
Roy, Georgina. “How to Write a Novel Based on True Story.” Accessed July 23, 2023. https://writingtipsoasis.com/how-to-write-a-novel-based-on-a-true-story/.