Did Any of That Really Happen?

December 30, 2012

Writers get this question all the time.

Mainly it’s asked by non-writers; those folks who can’t imagine someone making things up and capturing things on the page.

But, if you are very good at writing, making things up comes in often. Doing it usually makes a story better than any truth you could have told word-for-word as it really did happen.

Very few of us have lives worth writing down. And those of us who are that interesting are usually writing Biography. Not Fiction.

If, so far, you are still a bit wobbly at your writing, you might be relying on the truth a bit too much.  Your stories might be soaked in truth as you saw it happen in your life.

Or in a truth as you need to believe it, about something you’ve experienced.

Try to get yourself out of that. Try taking any portion of your real life you’re tempted to write about, and stop yourself from telling that truth.

Take a risk and write about a new, twisted way truth. Make your original truth something new and interesting by looking at your reality and then putting it away.

Reality is really only good for one thing. To give you ideas.

Here’s a link to one of my stories>> The Giant Rubber Gorilla. Click on the ‘Look Inside’ to read this.

And here’s a post of mine – where I talk about what went into writing that short stories: Writing: The Giant Rubber Gorilla

 The Reality:

I was sitting in the backseat when two other folks got out of the car.

We did drive down the beach that day.

I did see both a bail-bonds place and later a giant rubber gorilla.

What Was Made Up:

All the things that gave the story its problems for each character.

All the conflicts between these three women.

How a can of soda got in the way of things.

All the events that gave the story an ending where something changes for the MC.

So use reality for the right reasons: To kick off things you want to make up. Imagine and move away from the full on truth.

Let your readers be the ones who can’t imagine someone making things up and capturing them on the page.

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6 Responses to “Did Any of That Really Happen?”


  1. That’s fascinating.. to read what inspired your story! I love imagining new characters… once you bring them to life in the words of fiction, they start to seem real. Well, in a sense, they are. Everyone knows who Scarlett O’Hara is, but she was once just a thought coming from Margaret Mitchell’s imagination.

  2. La fille de la mer Says:

    I tend to agree with what you say on a first read. But then I am left wondering. Not everyone works the same. Take acting for example. You have character actors and actors who will remain themselves in whatever they do bringing their own experience and being every time they act. It seems writing is quite the same to me. Some people will never feel comfortable to let their imagination reign the whole way. They will find comfort and joy from delving inside their own pool of experience. Others will want to explore further needing to some extend to get as far as possible as their own experience.

    I don’t think one is better than the other, just a different path. The important point of your post is that we should strive to find out who we are as a writer and explore as far as we can to see where our limits are. Then accept them and continue to create.

    • ejrunyon Says:

      OH yes, writers are all unique; once they’ve found their own voice. My main point =or perhaps it was subtext 😉
      is that going beyond your truths brings up a more universal truth in our writing — if we risk going that far with our imagination.
      Thanks. This is a great comment you’ve left. A lot of writers will see it and start thinking more about their work.
      ej

      • La fille de la mer Says:

        Don’t worry your point was clear. 🙂 Just made me think a little outside of the original idea.

        As a matter of fact, as a writer who still has a lot to learn, your post is quite inspiring at the moment. I am pushing my limits by creating characters and situations further away from my own experience, but find myself scared sometimes and falling back on known territory. This will help me continue to explore and use my imagination some more. A muscle that when flexed can be quite fun to play with!
        Thanks for that post and Happy New Year to you!

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