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Writing Tip: It's OK to pull your fiction from the real world

Updated on August 23, 2014

Listen to the real world and wonder "What if."

Have you ever read an article and thought, this would make a great book or movie? Have you ever been sitting in your favorite coffee shop and heard a conversation that made you wonder what would happen if X and Y had happened instead of A and B?

My novel, Second Chances at Love, was based on a what if real life situation


If you're a writer, you should go with that feeling. The best fiction is rooted in reality. That may sound strange since the root of fiction is stuff you make up and world that you create. But readers are looking for a thread of realism in the novels they read.

Think about your favorite episode of Law and Order. Aren't the stories that are "ripped from the headlines" more interesting. Admit it, you sit there and try to figure out who the writers are really talking about during those episodes.

Using real life inspiration

There are rules to using real life in fiction. Of course you change the names to protect the innocent or guilty.

  • Make it interesting. The real life model for your character may have had one exciting event happen in their life along with thousands of mundane and every day experiences. As the writer, you have to change their existence. What happens to the war hero who returns home with undiagnosed PTSD? How do you make this journey eventful?
  • Remove your emotions. If you're writing about an event that happened in your life, you can't allow your emotions to stop you from crafting a well-rounded story that readers will connect with. And though it really happened, when you start writing about it, it may not feel real when you put pen to paper.
  • Don't tell your real life model that you're writing about them. If you ever want unsolicited notes about how you should write and craft your story, tell someone that you're writing about them. You will view that person a lot differently than they view themselves — this can be in a positive or negative way. When your project is finished and published, then you can reveal that he or she was the inspiration for your awesome hero or dastardly villain.
  • Use your anger in a good way. Sounds like a contradiction since I just said remove your emotions. But, some characters deserve a good thrashing, death or beat down. If it happens to be someone based on a real life person, release your pent up anger on paper. Of course, by the time you're done with the final draft, you might have streamlined the scene to make it more palpable to the reader.

A writer tip


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