Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fiction is...Fiction!

I've wondered how other writers deal with the question I invariably get--some variation of "Is this a true story?" Usually it's people I know reading my novel, recognizing a situation or detail of their life or someone else we know, and wondering if that character is them. Like I just plucked a friend or family member and dropped them into the story whole. What exactly would the fun of that be? I'm not writing a journal, newspaper article, or church talk here, I'm crafting entertainment. I'm using things I know and twisting them to suit the needs of the story. Kinda why I put "A Novel" on the cover. Not that I mind the question so much if they believe me.

Yet I've still had people come to me with lists..."Chloe is you, obviously, Jordan is so-and-so, Karen Lewis is so-and-so." Not. True. Not even the part that Chloe is me :) Am I diabetic? Yes. Do I have three children? Yes. Do the circumstances surrounding her diagnosis reflect my own? Mostly. So is Chloe Taylor Maria Hoagland? No.

But I digress. This post is about how other writers deal with that issue, and I've happened across two scenarios in the last two days. The first is from House of Diamonds by Karen Jones Gowen. Part of the dedication reads, "To my sisters, who love and support me, and who don't mind me fictionalizing them in my books." The other quote is from John Green's new novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Near the beginning of the book, there is an Author's Note that reads in part, "This is not so much an author's note as an author's reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up. Neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story." I found that, and the remainder of the Author's Note quite interesting.

Why do we need to know if it is fact or fiction? Why do so many people ask that? Is it important to know? Is it a good thing or a bad thing when it is based on fact but fictionalized?

What do you think?

The image at the top of this post was taken from a website called