Tag Archive | FBI

Writing about reality. Well, sort of

In the realm of authors, the topic comes out often about writing about a true story, or parallel to that, something that really happened.

In the world of fiction, an author often must be careful. In my historical, The Train Stops Here, while it wasn’t based on a true story, it was based in a place that really existed, and a situation that happened often – which is that the Great Depression, it was the job of the Section Foreman for the railroad to throw the hobos off the train.

When my mother was a child this was her life, her father was the Section Foreman, and this is what she saw happen, although as a young child, she didn’t understand the situation or the times. What she did see was that when her father kicked the men out of the boxcars, when he wasn’t looking, her mother would feed them.  Of course, in the middle of nowhere in the countryside, once kicked off the train there was nowhere for them to go. Everyone knew they jumped on the next train that left, but there was nothing anyone could do, so everyone just let it happen. Bottom line, the hobos were gone. It was true he kicked them off the train, though.

Also, one thing I mentioned in the book was the town bootlegger. My mother made double sure I didn’t give out too much information on him or his family. So that was also based on truth, but only as much truth as could be told.

That’s the thing about fiction. The author has to make it as close to reality as possible.


This Book Is Based On A True Story

I’ve always wondered, when I read the phrase “based on a true story” how much exactly in there is true.  The answer is, maybe a little, maybe a lot, but probably somewhere in the middle.

While a writer needs to write based on reality, unless you’re writing a fantasy where you’ve completely made up the world and/or universe in which your story resides, we need to make the story sound like it could be real. Most of the time that means using real places and real people. But at the same time, if a character does something bad or stupid, we can’t be too true that someone would recognize themself and sue the author and/or publisher. Yet we can’t completely make something up and claim it’s true to get more sales, and then be nothing more than a well-paid liar.

Sometimes authors make up towns, making weather and geography similar to a real place, but everything else is made up. This can be fun, and I’ve been part of a series by a number of authors where we did this.

My latest release – The Other Neighbor – is based on a true story, as far as the underlying plot. In real life, this situation rocked my husband’s company as once the bad guy was arrested, his company went into bankrupcy and all the money he owed for services rendered had to be written off as a loss, even though wages were paid to the staff, as well as other normal business expenses such as rent, taxes, furniture, etc etc. So the plot to make a bomb and an FBI investigation is real. Aside from that, everything else is pretty much made up.

There are other stories I’ve written where I heard about something real that happened, and used the concept and made up the rest.

The best fiction is making stuff up, and making it sound real. Especially when it is real.