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.