this is fiction!

One of my characters is sick, she has a disease. This requires research on my part, and this leads me to real people. Real people? This is fiction!!!

I land on blogs and read about personal struggles with the disease, or their children’s struggles with it. I read about misdiagnosis, treatments that went wrong. I read about real lives. Real losses. And it sits in my belly, and it festers, and I wonder why in the world am I writing about this? This is too much.I can’t handle this. Plus, what right do I have to try to interpret this kind of situation?

But I keep going, and eventually the ache passes, but the lives of these people who I’ve crossed, even just for a moment on the internet, leave an imprint on me. And I tell myself this is what writing is all about, imagining stories, living in other realities.

How about you, do you ever include the stories of real people in your fiction?

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14 thoughts on “this is fiction!

  1. I’ve done something similar. In the clinical research of my character’s disease everything worked out so well on paper. The ultimate death was a big deal for the other characters, but not for me. I could handle it.

    Then I started the real people research, like you did. It was horrible. I felt terrible. Here I was, using their grief as a plot point. Should I scrap the whole thing? Maybe I wasn’t cut out to write about this…it was too real, too raw.

    I didn’t use any actual stories by people. That would have been too much. But I did have to sit down and really look at my manuscript. Was this what I wanted to do? Knowing that what happens in the story will hurt and piss people off? Ultimately, I was true to the characters in my story and I just have to hope that my presentation is true enough.

    • It’s so tough, Cam. I ‘ve always wondered if the majority of writers are highly empathetic. I know I am, it’s ridiculous, but at the same time gives me the ability to really get into other shoes. At least I think it does, but maybe I’m wrong. lol

  2. Yes, but usually I don’t realise till afterwards. Things I’ve seen in the news or heard in passing sometimes happen in my characters’ lives and it often takes a while before I remember where the idea came from.

  3. I can only write about real people. Sometimes I combine the antics of one and apply it to another. If I want to write about a materialistic woman, I use one I already know and tweak it a bit.

  4. And I tell myself this is what writing is all about, imagining stories, living in other realities.

    I agree. I’ll reveal a secret; I always wanted to act, but I was too terrified to be in front of people. So, now I get to act through my characters. I can be anyone, anywhere, with any sort of life. When I’m done writing a novel or story, I feel that I’ve “lived” a different life for a while. Which is the same way I feel when I read a good book.

    So, in that sense, I also agree with Joseph. They’re all real.

  5. I often use snippets from real people in my fiction. Before I wrote my novel, I had prepared a history of the church that is mentioned in it, and so much of that actually happened. I thought why not put it in. I also used bits from my mother’s childhood to create a sense of what life was like for people growing up at that time. It’s almost impossible to get away from.

    • I love that Laura. It’s evident in your story that it’s inspired by history. I too love integrating real facts into my fiction. I think it’s the real emotions that I have a harder time with.

  6. Sure do. Where I live there are so many “characters” who are stories themselves. And, these people have unique tales told with a flavor. I don’t write about them specifically but take usable portions of the real life character to write about.

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