1. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fiction vs non-fiction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jazzabel, Feb 8, 2012.

    What is the division between fiction and non-fiction?

    I often use real life events and people in my stories. Sometimes just as inspiration and sometimes very precisely. For example, I’ll use the characteristics of someone’s speech to give my character a unique voice. Or I’ll incorporate stories someone told me. Or I’ll remember a real life event similar to the one I wish to describe, and I’ll describe the real event to make the narrative more precise and rooted in reality. And often, I’ll base my character on a person I know.
    This way, all my stories are walking the fine line somewhere between dramatised real life and pure fiction, but it is not inconceivable that people can recognise themselves in it and wonder :”Who the hell is writing this, must be someone I know!”.

    To make an analogy, if we look at the real photo versus photoshopped, it is considered dishonest to claim something heavily photoshopped is “pure” photography.
    I’ve heard of a few “scandals” when a very successful book which was marketed as fiction was found out to have been based on a true story, as well as the other way around.

    So is it the matter of honesty, or does everyone not care, as long as the story is good?
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    There can be a blurry line, but non-fiction exists to share a truth while fiction exists to share a story.
     
  3. Jamez
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    Jamez Member

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    When I read "non-fiction", I'm thinking: travel guides, college books, etc.

    Any story, even the ones based on real events and/or real people, to me is fiction. If you'd just dryly recount events as they happened, it's not going make for a good story... you add drama to make it interesting. As soon as you're dramatizing events and people, you've entered the realm of fiction, I'd say.

    Btw. isn't this contradictory:

    How can someone have a unique voice when he talks like Elton John? ;)
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha, no I meant the unique voice within the story. Otherwise, if I "spoke" for everyone, everyone would sound like the same person. This way if I base a character's speech on my friend Bob, with all the idiosyncrasies that his speech contains, it sounds like a separate, real person within the narrative. And then I use Bob's stories about the SAS when I'm writing my character Willem, in a lot of ways he is different to Bob, but if Bob reads my book he'll go "Hey! Wtf, that's me?!" :D
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's an interesting way of looking at it, thanks :)
    What about philosophical truths, though? Like for example in "Les Miserables" the truth about the bad state of society and desperate need for social justice that was a big issue at the time?
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that if you feel free to change a fact or an event, it's fiction, no matter how much of it may be inspired by reality.
     
  7. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't speak for Les Miserables, but philosophy is already situated outside the realms of reality anyway. Where science defines the (temporary or permanent) facts of reality, philosophy defines the questions about concepts, so philosophical truths are naturally geared towards being good as a fictional basis or a non-fictional point-of-view, but not the other way round.
     
  8. Jamez
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    Jamez Member

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    Ah, gotcha. Bob should be flattered! ;)
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @cruciFiction: ah I see :)

    @ChickenFreak: that's kinda what I figured and hoped it will be ok :D
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what you described doing is what all fiction writers do, so it's nothing out of the ordinary and nothing to be concerned about, as long as your characters aren't drawn so identically to real persons that they and those who know them can recognize who you used as models...

    since they'd have to be so idosyncratic that their description would fit no one else in the world, it's highly unlikely that would be the case, but to be on the safe side, just change names and bits of personality, looks, etc. enough so you won't have to worry about it...
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for that maia! I have been doing that, I was just wondering if it's somehow not "appropriate" but I am relieved that's what most writers do :) As far as as people recognising themselves, I fear that people I know well, will recognise themselves even with the changed demographics, so to be on the safe side, I'll just use a pseudonym :D
     

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