How to write fiction from real-life incidents

Why I wrote this article

I just read a column in the newspaper by my old editorial management page professor, Paul Greenberg, who is the managing editor of our statewide daily newspaper. Mr. Greenberg, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was recently accused of plagiarism in an article by another columnist. I did not see the original article, but apparently some of his other enemies took up the cudgel against him.

He defended his stance on writing by basically saying that almost all research amounts to plagiarism. He says that unless you discover it or invent it yourself, you are plagiarizing someone else’s research. His advice is to use the work but give them the credit where credit is due. He uses a lot of quotes in his columns, in fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen a column without a quote from someone he admired, but he gives them credit.

In case you are wondering why I would bring up Mr. Greenberg in an article on Lorie Ann Glover, I guess I’m quoting him in my defense of using Ms. Glover's work. My defense is that I admire her and want to share her good ideas.

Look at your own life for incidents

I just read a truly good article on the topic of writing from real life by Lorie Ann Grover, who has written several fiction books based on real incidents in her life. Her fantasy novel, Firstborn, received a Kirkus Starred Review, and a children's book, Bedtime Kiss for Little Fish, was named a Parents Magazine Best Children's Book. I have not read any of her books yet, but I was impressed by her article. I want to pass her great ideas on to you, but of course there is no way I can write a review without a little bit from the Peanut Gallery (me).

Ms. Grover advises starting out with the truth, but then she delves into the possible complications of writing fiction from real-time incidents. I believe a writer could avoid this problem by putting it into a different era and, of course, making sure the names do not resemble the names of the real live people involved in the incidents -- or of the deceased if they were a person well-known in the locale. While the dead cannot sue, a living relative can cause a problem if you have somehow inadvertently published something that reflects on them.

Thinking about using real-life incidents reminded me of a novel that I started writing about 10 years ago and have yet to finish. My great-grandfather had a female cousin who was quite a heroine during the Civil War. I wanted to write her biography, but all I could find was a one-paragraph inclusion in the Turnbo Manuscripts written by Ozark historian Silas C. Turnbo, whose writings are now considered the best record and folklore of the Ozark Mountains. I hit a wall because everything else I could dig up on her was genealogical, no family tales, nothing, nada. Just a photograph of one of the homeliest women I've ever seen.

My solution was to start making things up, so the first thing I did was to change all the names, including the family name. I had to fictionalize her but what could I say? Questions started flowing through my mind. Why did she have to be the town’s hero? She had brothers. The answer was obvious, they were off fighting in the war, her mom was no spring chicken, and her other siblings were too young. Turnbo says that she was extremely short at only 4 ft. 10 in. She was definitely no Scarlett O’Hara, I had to decide whether to make her into the lithe beauty of romance novels or tell the truth.

Truth is stranger than fiction

This comes to her second suggestion. Ms. Grover says that facts can feel fake. She muses that some believe-it-or-not facts can sound more like fiction than fiction itself, but I decided to keep her real as part of her character. I portrayed her as a petite person, not specifying her actual height, and I stated that she had not inherited her mother's looks. Then I started to develop her childhood by using incidents from my own childhood.

Source

Get any permissions needed

Ms. Grover advised getting permission from people you are including, but long-forgotten incidents probably do not require permission. I wasn’t going to worry about it. My advice is to get any permission you need in writing. Don't rely on verbal agreements because honor went out with the World's Greatest Generation. A handshake and a word is no longer a person's bond.

The beautiful White River

White River in its beauty
White River in its beauty | Source
White River overflowed its banks
White River overflowed its banks | Source
More flood damage
More flood damage | Source
How the White River once looked.
How the White River once looked. | Source

Let the story tell itself

Ms. Grover advised, let go and let the story run. I grew up on the same river as my ancestor, and people drowned in that beautiful, but treacherous, river. I rewrote the loss of a beloved teacher who drowned just before her wedding day, adding enough fiction to make it mine. Then I escalated it into the suicide of her fiancé who did not want to face life after losing her.

There were other negative incidents in my life like fistfights and bullying, so I included some of those. I remember a fistfight I had with a really mean boy in my neighborhood. He was more of a banty rooster than a real fighter, so we ended in a draw. I developed that into a fight that left a serious injury to my character and caused consequences in her later life. Sorry, Alfred, but you ended up in prison and are still there, so I’m not going to worry about a defamation of character lawsuit.

Look at the whole piece

Most of my character’s life is happy, but making a living in the mountains is hard and life can be very harsh, especially when two opposing armies are in the way. I wrote of happy times and the bad, of love and war, because that is what in my mind built the character of this woman. But then Ms. Grover says to take pause and look at the work as a whole. I did, and I realized that I had a book full of incidents; I didn’t have a much of a hook, if one at all. I had a narrative of the life of a courageous woman of the mid-to-late 19th Century, which would be acceptable for a straight biography of an unusual or famous person but not in today’s fiction. I still don’t have an exciting hook, and I’m still thinking. Bleh!

Promote and share

The author’s final hint is to share the works completion with everyone you know, including websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’ve done a fairly decent job of following her first five hints on my own. When I get that book finished, of course I will crow like the 4 a.m. rooster.

Why would I use my unfinished book as an example of the hints laid out in someone else’s tutorial? When I saw her hints, I saw that I had followed them almost to the letter. It reinforced the thought in my mind that I have good instincts, and I wanted to share them as a checklist for others. But, admittedly, I still have not completed the book, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So they say.

Back to my excuses

Another reason I haven’t finished this book is because of the physical research that I just don’t have time to take off work and do. I grew up in the Ozarks 30 miles from where my character lived. I can sit at a computer and do all the research I need to do on the Civil War and on other facts from making soap to dodging bullets. However, I know the beauty of these mountains and their treachery, and I need specific places like hills, bluffs, valleys, and streams. I want my descriptions to be beyond criticism. Never let it be said that I didn’t know my own native terrain, “That cave was set in a holler about three miles from Calico Rock, not on the hillside a short run from Sylamore.”

I simply can’t desecrate my beloved Ozarks with imaginary fictionalization. Rather than do a botched-up job just to get something finished, I would rather put it aside and wait until I can make a leisurely trip to research her home territory and finish it. This is a matter of pride, not laziness.

However, I have taken Lorie Ann Grover's advice to heart and will use it in the completion of my book. I hope that her bit of advice is helpful to you, too.


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Comments 85 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

I completely agree with Mr. Greenberg's statement. In fact, I have a hub coming out next week about the fact that we are all plagiarists whether we want to admit it or not. It is unavoidable that we would be strongly influenced by writings that came before us. Unless we copy word for word the work of someone else, we are just doing what writers have always done...taking existing knowledge, re-wording it, and giving it our unique voice. Great thoughts here, MizB.


DJ Anderson 22 months ago

Great advice, here, Miz B. I was searching for something only yesterday.

Found just what I wanted, but did not want it to be so close to the info.

Will have to rely on my own devices to come up with a Cree blessing.

Hope I am not too far off the mark as I would not want to insult anyone.

But, must maintain a respectable distance or be looking at infringement rights, down the road.

Thanks,

DJ.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Hi, Friend Bill. I am fortunate to have taken a class under a real Pulitzer Prize winner. He is right on all counts. We only get in trouble when we copy word-for-word. Thanks for stopping by and being the first to read.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

DJ, I'm not sure what you are needing, but something like a blessing that is a direct quote can be quoted and attributed without being plagiarism. We were taught in journalism classes that we could quote 200 words or less with attribution and it was not plagiarism. I hope you find what you need. Thank you, and blessings to you.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 22 months ago from Central Florida

MizB, I'm working on my first fiction novel. None of the characters are real-life people, but the setting is. It's set in Georgia in a specific town that fits my story line. I've researched the town, the natural vegetation in the area, and favorite foods. A part of fiction must be real or the reader doesn't get drawn in.

As far as basing characters on real-life people, that's a treacherous slope. If they're alive and see any similarity whatsoever, that could end up in a lawsuit. We writers have to be very careful. Since there are no new ideas, and research is necessary in building our craft, we open ourselves up to a whole slew of recriminations.

However, being the master of disguise is something every writer needs to learn. And learn it well.

This is a very informative and interesting article. I'm related to Stonewall Jackson on my mother's side, so I'll be very interested in reading your novel when it's published.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Bravewarrior, what you said is very true. I would never write a novel based on a real live person. Frankly, I wouldn't want to because even if you legally got away with it, think of all the hurt it might cause. When you put in some modern incidents, like the boy who used to beat up on us girls and ended up in prison, I don't think he would even see himself. But remember, truth is the defense.

Stonewall Jackson, that's really neat. My great great uncle (maybe it was three greats, I can't remember) was Nathan Bedford Forest, but he probably isn't going to make it into this novel because he was too far east. I'll be on the lookout for your novel, too. Thanks for reading and your insightful comments with which I agree.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 22 months ago from Central Florida

MizB, my mom is a Civil War buff. Perhaps it's because of our connection to Stonewall. My mom's mom's maiden name was Jackson. Stonewall is my I-don't-know-how-many-greats-ago uncle. He was quite eccentric. I think some of his genes are still prevalent today; I have some strange habits myself!

I'm not sure if my novel will interest you. It's not yet complete, but I've posted the first 16 chapters here on HP and I won't post any more. If you're interested, it's called The Gifts of Faith.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Oh, thanks. I'll check it out. (I've been a Civil War buff since I was in the 8th grade. Your mom and I have a lot in common.)


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

Great insight here you have provided. I am a non-fiction writer for the most part, but I do believe we can take the character of real persons in our lives and maybe combine with other character traits to create a most interesting fictional character.

I think you are doing right in not hurrying through writing your book because you certainly want your best put out there forever and not regret having taken the amount of time it takes to produce your best writing without risking quality of settings, etc.

Wonderful and interesting hub. Your book sounds like a winner to me.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 22 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Very interesting and great advice on fiction writing using real life incidents. I also started a kind of biography of my dearest one. But it is pending due to lack of some kick start ideas. I hope I may use some of your tips. Thanks for sharing it. Voted up.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Venkatachari, I think we all have interesting things happen to us or to the people we know that we can develop into our own without duplicating the real incident. I'll bet you can come up with some interesting ones. I still haven't got my first chapter down. I'm kicking around two or three ideas. Thanks for the comment and the vote.


Sandra Eastman profile image

Sandra Eastman 22 months ago from Robbinsdale MN

Actually my 4 book series is based in part on the life of my grandmother and mother. I once had a writing instructor question the validity of the story as he said a woman would never forgive as many times as my heroine when in fact they were true examples. Yes truth is stranger than fiction.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Sandra, I notice you referred to the instructor as "he". Only a man would question the validity of a woman's forgiveness. Thank you for reading and commenting.

(Please forgive me, my dear male readers surely present company excepted.)


Sandra Eastman profile image

Sandra Eastman 22 months ago from Robbinsdale MN

Great comeback. Hadn't thought of it that way but of course it was a man. :-)


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Tee hee, of course!


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 22 months ago from london

Great Hub. I seem to have lost some of my comments. It is good to give credit and this also helps some people. Also, a good story-teller would make the book flow whether fiction or fact.

Finally, you can talk about the person and then create your character without being too personal. You do not need to be like: he lived in a bungalow, was a priest and married to an Indian banker from Pakistan. Hehe. Noble effort.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Wow! sounds like you have the making of a great story already, Manatita. Yes, you can change things around so they shouldn't be recognizable. For instance, the local teacher who drowned was a piano teacher. I made her into a schoolmarm in a one-room school. Thanks for the read and the great comment. Blessings, Miz B


CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 22 months ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

Very informative, interesting and indeed very useful. Exactly what my Creative Writing teacher taught us in the classroom.

Absolutely bookmarking this for good ideas.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 22 months ago from australia

Hi MizB - thank you for this. I do have reservations sometimes when I use a character based on someone from the past. I do it frequently and then concern kicks in. But then I realise it would be impossible not to have thoughts and people's characteristics purely because that's how we gauge reactions. I like the advice given here on all counts. Cheers, Maj


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

CrisSp, glad to know that. I never really had a class in creative writing. I did have feature writing and magazine writing, and they didn't teach us fiction. Thanks for the helpful comment.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Thanks, Maj. They say history repeats itself, so who is to know whether an incident was from your past, present, or your future imagination. I don't think I'll have concerns anymore because other people do it, too.


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 22 months ago from USA

Isn't that funny, how truth can sound stranger than fiction when you're writing a novel. :) I like the idea of disguising real events in a different time period.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 22 months ago from Mississauga, ON

MizBejabbers,

An awesome article on something new!

I was aware of the fact that non-fiction writers do bring in fiction, well sort of, to make an event more interesting. For example, encounters with carnivores over a stretch of 3 days could be mentioned in a non-fiction story over a 24 hour duration as if the day long walk was full of exciting encounters with large carnivores. This was my first intro to using facts to write fiction.

Btw, you have given some great examples of how you turned factual stories into fiction. I liked them all.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

O. sometimes our imaginations just can't equal real life. Thanks for the comment.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago Author

Suhail, I like the idea that your dog is writing, too. Say hello to him (or her) for me. LOL Sometime I wonder if we could write fiction if we hadn't seen or read of other's strange factual stories. I'm sure that many a true story or biog. has been "stretched" a little bit. That 's what makes history so interesting. Thank you for the read and the compliment on my examples.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 22 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

What a coincident to read your post on writing fiction from a real life story, in my case its my own. The title is The Self Employed Housewife. I have changed the names and hopefully have written it in a way that readers do not realize that Nadine May is the main character. I'm now on chapter 16 and I need to find a way to make a conclusion. So far I have only shared it on Hubpages and send the link to a few family members.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 21 months ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Haha, if I wrote a book, I'd crow like a 4am rooster too! The tips from Lorie Grover are quite useful and I think you've nailed the idea of merging real life with fictional characters. I've always struggled a bit with fictional characters because they're usually drawn from life but I find it hard to "believe" in them and make them come alive if they aren't from life and need to be created as such. Your life sounds like it has lots of interesting elements to work with and your book should be great to read as the subject matter sounds fascinating! Thank you for sharing your valued insights into this and voted useful!


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 21 months ago Author

Nadine, I don't know, if people know you, they may recognize the similarities. If they don't know you, then it doesn't matter, I wouldn't think. Great to know you have that many chapters written. Thanks for the read and your comment.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 21 months ago Author

Suzanne, I do have a lot of interesting elements, but not interesting enough to write a memoir. I may write one anyway just for my family. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to retiring so I can finish my book. Right now we are so busy at work that I almost overlooked the comments from you and Nadine. Thank you for reading and commenting.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 21 months ago from Taos, NM

What an interesting article. First, I like the explanation of plagiarism by Mr. Green. Most of us do take ideas from other works and I understand what he means here. When we write a mystery/thriller, ideas can come from Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King. I also appreciate your personal advice from your own experiences. This is an article all writers should read.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 21 months ago Author

Thank you, Suzette. I'm getting some good comments. When I wrote it, I wasn't sure how it would be received since I was "plagiarising" a couple of other writers.


PAINTDRIPS profile image

PAINTDRIPS 21 months ago from Fresno CA

Amazing storytelling and great points. Thank you for that. I loved it.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 21 months ago Author

Paintdrips, thank you. I love hearing from you.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

On the topic of plagiarism, Mr Greenburg is right in saying there are no new ideas, and by that logic, we all plagiarize, but I would like to further qualify this information.

There is a huge difference between incidental or flaterary plagiarize versus malicious plagiarism, ie copying someone else's work word for word and saying it is your own. There is no excuse for the latter.

Wonderful, thought provoking article.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 20 months ago from sunny Florida

this is so helpful. I am not really a fiction writer but have tackled a few fiction challenges here on HubPages and the next time I participate in one I will refer back to this.

And I get it with your own work...if it is worth doing, it worth doing right and you want it to be the best it can be.

Voting up and shared Helpful info for all...

Angels are once again on the way ps


The0NatureBoy profile image

The0NatureBoy 20 months ago from Washington DC

I began writing a fiction novel in the early 1970s and my wife kept bugging me to allow her to read what I had written and after reading it I became discouraged and dropped. It was based on my love of "Western Stories" and my own desire to be "as free as a deer." Although I had only barely completed the first chapter, I thought was interesting, I was never able to go any further with it. However, I have written my life story, religious and political beliefs and about 90 poems found on my website, the first thing to come up if you google Elijah NatureBoy. There's no place to comment on it so if you want to let me know what you think you will have to email it to me.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

Larry, I agree, and if I could have plagiarized Mr. Greenberg's whole column, he wrote the same thing. He had been accused of "malicious" plagiarism, and he was defending himself. Thank you for your great comment.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

Thank you so much for your comment and for the angels. It is always good to hear from you, and I'm glad this was helpful to you. Love and light.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

I hope your wife wasn't too hard on your story. I can't get my family to read what I write, so if I ever complete the great novel, it won't be with help from them. As soon as I get time, I'll check out your website. Sometimes it's better not to have a place for comments because of spam and hecklers. Thanks for following and commenting.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 20 months ago from England

Hi, yes its really helpful, and what a great idea! i totally understand why you are holding back, its amazing how many people will spot even the smallest thing wrong, but well done and good luck with the book when its finished! nell


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

Thank you , Nell. As soon as I have the time to figure out a hook, I'll resume writing. I realize that on this particular story, it may be difficult. I'm having to make a trip to North Arkansas anyway, so I may as well incorporate geographical research while I'm there.


The0NatueBoy 20 months ago

It wasn't that she was so hard, she didn't like the story line. It was about a runaway modern slave who woke up one morning north in US. As he was seeking food found a lone house and and asked the owner -- he didn't know was and a widow -- if he could earn a meal. She fed him then asked him to get her some wood and in observing him work began to appreciate him. That was the chapter my wife disapproved of because the girl in the book was white. Most blacks have been taught to hate any other black mingling with whites which is what my wife did not like.

However, that became a prophecy of this life. After my "spiritual birth" I became a wanderer who had served in vietnam's civil war and had walked away from all the world had to offer and found myself chopping wood for a widow for about half of a year. By my wife stopping my writing it I would have to live it to find out how it turned out.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

Wow, what can I say except that it sounds interesting. Lots of people have had experiences of being kind to a person of another race and have met disapproval for it. I would like to know how your story ends if you ever finish it. Thanks for sharing.


The0NatueBoy 20 months ago

Like I said, I lived it.

In the book it was a Dakota but in life it was Decorah, Iowa and her husband had recently passed so she retired home other parents. In the story there were not going to be children as it was ion life and instead of her husband being the farmer and as in the story it was her dad. In the story he began to sleep in the barn and helped with the farm when I lived in a friend's loaned log cabin behind her house about a mile through the fields and some woods.

Just as she returned home her dad came ands asked me to help with haying and I suggested a trade work for firewood and he agreed but throw in some money also. She lived in a trailer house across the street from the family with a girl 10 and boy 12 and after helping with the farm I would chop wood for her wood heater. Her father or brother would pick me up daily until I later began to live with her.

We often played games and her son had been conditioned to believe blacks were inferior people but he found out I usually beat him in all the games and the girl loved it because she and the mother usually lost to him. I taught her how to use her money wisely for needs a d forget b using wants. Except for that we had a great time until I left the following spring for NYC intending to find a way to Europe.

When I got to NY I had mail asking if she and the daughter could come and live with me, the boy had somewhat of a handicap and didn't want to come, on the streets, there was no way I without working and she on a fixed income could afford NYC rent. They intended to live with me forever but I didn't want the responsibility of protecting the girl, it would be easier with the mother but with a 11 year old girl, not so, so when September arrived I sent them back although I didn't want to.

A few years age the married daughter contacted e on FaceBook thee disappeared. End of story as lived.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

Okay, thanks. Now I know how it ended.


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 20 months ago from Orlando Florida

I enjoyed reading this. The advice is excellent, but because I am not writing a novel, it was not the main thing that held my interest. It was the narrative you told about how you came to write the book and why you wanted to write the book, plus the tidbits of anecdotes in the book. I hope you write that book. My advice is to make stuff up, and then after you have visited, correct it. Voted up++


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

What a nice comment, Catherine. I think you've given me some good advice, too, because I know so little about my ggf's cousin that's what I will have to do. Thank you.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 20 months ago from The Beautiful South

I bet you will write a fantastic book; it sure sounds like it could be and refusing to have it less than your idea of perfect gives it a great chance. I have read some really great books just based on other people (namely women) of a certain time. Too bad more word of mouth did not pass down through your family but still I know you will do it justice and please let us know when it is done!


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

Thanks, Jackie, it may be a couple of years from now because I can't think while I'm still working. This dystopia that I edit every day from the state legislature is driving me crazy. I want a clear head when I get back to the book. I will definitely let everyone know when I find that hook and finish it. Thanks for the nice comment.


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 20 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

I hope that meantime you white lots of hubs about the Ozarks you know and love.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago Author

Thank you B. I am working on a couple more right now, but "real" work has interfered. I appreciate the comment.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 19 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Lots of writing crafters responding to this one with excellent comments and additional information. It surely brings out the serious writers, starting with the author of this Hub.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 19 months ago Author

That is true, Pers, and I'm very impressed with the people who have responded and the quality of their comments. Thank you for reading and commenting.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 18 months ago from Home Sweet Home

i am no expert in telling my own stories but I love reading hubbers


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 18 months ago Author

Peach, I'll bet you would be good at it. You write some wonderful craft stuff and recipes. Just tell it like you would tell your child. Thanks for reading at commenting.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 17 months ago from New Delhi, India

A very well presented, insightful and interesting hub!

I love to write from my real life experiences. And those experiences are not unique to me. Others may have similar experiences from life. So if me and some one else also writes on the same subject, can it be called plagiarism? I don't think so.

If I describe the beauty of Nature in a particular way, some other writer may describe it in a similar way. We also get impressed and influenced by what others write and it is stored there, somewhere in our mind.

I also appreciate your personal advice from your own experiences. A must read article for all writers.

Thanks and voted up!


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 17 months ago Author

Chitrangada, I really appreciate your comment. I agree that different people can write on the same subject without it being plagiarism. Remember the story of the blind men and the elephant? Thank you for liking my advice. It always helps to know if my writing is on target.


VioletteRose profile image

VioletteRose 17 months ago from Chicago

I love reading fictional stories and novels, but never thought about writing one myself. As you say, it could be helpful if you relate it with real life experiences. Great hub!


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 17 months ago Author

Thank you, Violette. Sorry it took so long to get back to you, but I've been in the hospital and am just now getting back on my feet. I find a lot of inspiration in people whom I know, and also at looking back to things that happened in my childhood. Friends and schoolmates can be really interesting.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 16 months ago from New Jersey

I hope you write the book too. I am thinking of taking a course to write fiction, I've tried writing a few astrology hubs using characters and giving them traits of the sign, and I like doing it, it's fun. But I want them to be realistic, and could use a few pointers. Good luck!


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 16 months ago Author

I think that's a capital idea, Jean. I want to take some more creative writing classes, too. When I retire I may take a course at the local university in playwriting. Classes are free to anyone 60 or over, but I haven't had time to take advantage of them. I have a short story that I'd started as a chapter in my book, but I realized it didn't fit. I think it would make a great "Thornton Wilder-style" play. Thanks for the comment. I love your hubs.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 16 months ago from New Jersey

Thank you. I had signed up for a creative writing class, but it turned out to be someone I know in the metaphysical world. I like her, but she dabbles in a lot of things (I do t00). But I want to take writing lessons from someone with more writing experience.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 16 months ago Author

Ah ha, I would prefer not taking from someone I know except as a teacher. I would be afraid a friend might soft-pedal my critiques. It would be good for the ego but bad for experience.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 16 months ago from Long Island, NY

I write non-fiction since I generally write for the purpose of sharing ideas and advice. So it's quite different from fiction. But I found your hub extremely interesting. For that matter, it's also enlightening and motivating.

I have always thought of taking all my experiences with various people in my life and creating a fiction story from it. I realized I could change things where necessary to fit together unrelated facts into a common theme for the made-up characters of the fiction version of life.

Maybe now I should consider doing this. There's enough material from real life to make it into a fiction story. And of course it's important to follow your advice and change names, as well as timing of events, so as not to coincide with real people.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 16 months ago Author

Glen, I enjoy your hubs, but I'll bet you can come up with some great stories from your own life. I decided to start small with short stories, and I did write several, some of which I took from my own life. I also found that I could take an incident that really happened to someone else and turn it into a work of fiction. I saw an interview with a famous actress' daughter on TV and I based one of my totally fictitious short stories on something she said. So far nobody has asked me if I based it on [blank] and [blank] because I changed the names.

I'm glad that you have taken away some new ideas from this hub. Your second paragraph describes perfectly the way to do these experiences. Happy writing!


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 16 months ago from Long Island, NY

Thanks for your reply to my comment. That's a great idea - starting with short stories. Then later they could actually be pieced together into a series for a lengthier novel.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 16 months ago Author

You are very welcome.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 15 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Thanks for your enjoyable post. Its my understanding that every author no matter how outlandish their story comes across, something of the person who wrote the story is interwoven in the plot, that is why fiction is often more real than nonfiction...that is my personal opinion.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York

I really enjoyed reading this! I'm working on an article based on a real person, but I kept getting snagged. Your advice has helped me re-think some of what I've written and what I want to write.

You really made this interesting along with educational. Thanks for a great read.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 14 months ago Author

Nadine, I think that you are very correct. We all weave a part of ourselves into our stories even when they are nonfiction because they are a part of us. From the other side of the fence, as an editor I have to be very careful not to put myself into someone else's work that I am editing. That is one of the very things we caution new editors about when we are training them. Thank you for a very good comment.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 14 months ago Author

Mary, I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this and that it could be of help. I'm glad to have found Ms. Grover's article because it really helped me. Don't you love it when someone else validates what you've already been thinking? Thanks for commenting.


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 14 months ago from California

Great advice! I agree that life can be stranger than fiction so re-writing real-life incidents into works of fiction is only logical! And makes the writing feel more authentic, I think. And more meaningful, too. I can never make the whole story up, from the first to the last word.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 14 months ago Author

Svetlana, I don't think anything new has ever been written. Seems like everything is just a rehash of life, just in different order. People, even our own relatives, do things we could never imagine. HA! Thank you for reading and your great comment.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 11 months ago

I want to write about someone who because of the incidence would tell the identity of the person even if I changed the names and the location.

There is such good information in this hub that I am thinking how can write I about the situations with a similar character. This hub has really got me thinking.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 11 months ago Author

Shyron, that really is a problem, and I'm not sure I would have any advice other than what Lorie Ann Glover has given and I have set out here. My incidents were so long ago that most of that generation has died (like the teacher who drowned) so I don't really have any worries about their being recognized. If at all possible I would advise changing the timeline. For instance, if this happened within the last 25 years, I would write it into the more distant past or make it a futuristic event. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you work it out.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 9 months ago from San Diego California

Excellent advice here, things for all writers to think about because what writer does not steal from reality? We create fantastic imaginary settings and populate them with real people and sometimes real events. I hope you finish your wonderful novel. A story about the Ozark perspective of the Civil War would be fascinating.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 9 months ago Author

Mel, Thank you for your nice comment. I have more research to do before I can continue. A lot of battles went on in the Ozarks that aren't taught in the history books. I can pick a couple and fictionalize around them, I hope.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 9 months ago from San Diego California

Pea Ridge also known as Elkhorn Tavern comes to mind. Mr. Shelby Foote wrote a glorious chapter on that too.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 9 months ago Author

Yes, Pea Ridge is in Benton County near Bella Vista almost at the Missouri border, and it was at least in the Arkansas History books. The Wolf House is in Baxter County near Norfork, but there were battles near there, too. I would like to read Mr. Foot's work on that. There were more battles and more occupation in Arkansas than the history books give credit.


yecall profile image

yecall 9 months ago from California

It sounds like a wonderful book that she wrote. Regarding your book, it seems that you have already done much of it, you just need the one event that propels it all forward. Congratulations!


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 9 months ago Author

yecall, Ms. Glover's books do sound good, but I have to admit that I haven't read any of them. I thought here article was excellent and decided that it was worth passing along. Thank you for reading and commenting.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 5 months ago from Long Island, NY

I like the ideas of Ms. Glover. You explained it well with examples of how you implement it for your own book.

I especially like the one with writing about happy times and bad times, and of love and war. These are things that happen in life and create drama. I feel this is something that can hold a reader's attention throughout the story.

Good luck with completing your book.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 5 months ago Author

Glen, I thought Ms. Glover had some very good ideas. I think I wrote on this because I could remember them better if I did. Hopefully I will complete my book. My retirement is just around the corner, and I am saving it for then rather than slap bang it together during my (dubious) spare time now. Thank you for reading and commenting.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 2 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Great article and I love what Billy said, most if not all writers take existing knowledge and just re-wording it.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 2 months ago Author

Nadine, you are right. In fact the instructions on how to write a good hub encourage it. "Careful research" in most cases just amounts to a regurgitation of someone else's work. I love the original works, especially Billybuc's, don't you? Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

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