Should You Base Your Book On A True Story?

By on January 22, 2018
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When it comes to writing a book, many authors wonder how much of ‘themselves’ they should put into it. We’ve all been told that ‘writing what you know’ can be helpful, and that by drawing on our own experiences, history, emotions and way of viewing the world we will end up writing a much more authentic, believable and relatable piece of writing.

However getting too bogged down in the ‘truth’ of our story can also lead to difficulties. For a start, much of what happens to us in our everyday lives is fairly mundane, and as we go about our day to day business, we are hardly inspired to write down everything that we see and do. If we only allow ourselves to write what we know, we could end up with a very dull book indeed.

However, everyone has stories to tell, and often our greatest ideas flow from the meaningful events in our lives and how they have affected and changed us.

There is sometimes a fine line between a novel and a memoir, and you should be clear about what kind of story you want to tell before you begin. If you are actually writing your life’s story, a memoir, you should stick to the truth. You can be creative about the way you allow the events to unfold but making up things that didn’t happen is not a good idea. A fictionalised story, however, is a different matter altogether, and this is where things can get interesting!

There are many advantages to basing your book, at least in part on a true story, and these are the things to remember:

You have the freedom to rewrite history.

The wonderful thing about basing your book on a true story is that it doesn’t have to have the same outcome. You can keep it as close to the truth as you like, or you can change the details to tell it in another way - it’s completely up to you.

You can be as creative and imaginative as you like

As with any piece of writing you do, creativity is your friend.

You don’t have to make all parts of your story realistic, let your imagination run wild and mix up real-life elements with fantastical ones to make your story really exciting!

Writing down your most life-changing and powerful moments can be cathartic and enlightening.

Re-living past events, particularly those that had a profound effect on you can help you work through things that perhaps you had kept buried for a long time. Doing so and being in control of how you tell these stories can be very therapeutic indeed.

By including true stories in your novel, you are connecting with your reader on a deeper and more personal level.

Telling a story that holds an element of truth makes it even more exciting and special. If your story is in some way truthful, it can be a way of inviting your readers in and offering a deeper more meaningful piece of writing that could truly touch and change them too.

Remember - the truth is subjective anyway!

Writing your book based on a true story can be an exciting and freeing experience for any writer. So next time you are thinking about ideas for your next book, delve into your memories and see if there isn’t a great story in there just waiting for the opportunity to be told!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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