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?

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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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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