1. cynthia_1968
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    cynthia_1968 Active Member

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    Would you mix real events in your story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cynthia_1968, Jun 25, 2014.

    Hello world,

    I'm currently working on my second story, and I've already 100 pages, which is the first chapter BTW.

    My new story, which is a sequel to the first one, takes place during the terrorist attack in Boston in 2013. Just like my previous story I combine fiction and real events with each other and tell a story from different angles.

    I wonder if using real events is a bad taste of the writer - me - or not. Just like everyone I was shocked by the terror in '13.

    I honestly will never understand why a terrorist kills innocent people for their case - I really was shocked by the videos - I saw online and disgusted by some anti US reactions I read on the Internet at that time.

    Anyway, since my first book - which is now in the hands of my editor - ended in Boston in March 2013, I decided to write a sequel.

    How do you feel about using horrible events in your story?

    Is it a wrong thing to do? Even though it's fiction, based on a real event?

    P.s. I honestly don't know where to post my question so I decided to post it here. I apologize in advance if I post my question on a wrong section
     
  2. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say it's perfectly fine to incorporate history (no matter how recent) into your story. If it takes place in Boston in 2013, there's really no escaping the events that happened there, and to pretend it didn't happen would be a disservice. However, how detailed you get into it should be dictated by the needs of the story. Is it just a part of the background? Or were the characters affected by it? Don't go into details that aren't relevant to the story--same as any work that includes history. Don't detail the history for its own sake.

    Also, just like any other part of history, make sure you have all your facts straight. People familiar with the details of the event will know if you haven't done your homework.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Plenty of fictional stories are based around real events.

    Like xanadu said, you don't really have much of a choice here, and pretending it never happened would be a smack in the face to everyone who was injured/killed during the attack. Whether your characters were actually there, or heard about it from another part of the city, it'd be interesting to see their reactions.
     
  4. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I think it's fine to use recent history like that. Though personally, I would be afraid others would accuse me of trying to profit off a tragedy. (You're not, but some people can be sensitive.)

    My book originally had a mass shooting in it. It wasn't based on a real one, but I still ended up changing it to a car accident. (I just needed a man to die while saving the life of a child he didn't know.) Part of the reason I changed was that I thought people might see it as crass. The other part was that I thought it would complicate the story since the police and media would be involved (I'm lazy.)
     
  5. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    I don't think they're (in general) off limits at all but do need to be handled with a modicum of sensitivity, especially when more recent. Like @xanadu said, make sure you have details right, like the the location of the bombs, the times they went off, things like that that are both common knowledge to the masses and that those more emotionally invested in the events (locals, vicitm's and their families, marathon participants, ...) will pick up on. Study photographs, footage, articles, etc. to help you be as accurate as possible, even if the bombing isn't key to the story.
     
  6. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Definitely add them as background, it enriches the tapestry.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk turned an entire world war to his own fictional purposes. Michael Shaara did the same with the Battle of Gettysburg (The Killer Angels). Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee fictionalized the Scopes trial in Inherit the Wind. And Tom Clancy came eerily close to predicting 9/11 with Debt of Honor.

    James A. Michener and Leon Uris repeatedly made historical events reference points in their fictional work.
     
  8. cynthia_1968
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    cynthia_1968 Active Member

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    That's why I decided to use it as a background for my sequel, and I felt that I couldn't ignore it and pretend nothing happened.

    That's why I decided to post this question. I'm not interested in trying to get a profit out off this tragedy. But I think, however, that it's not something that should be forgotten. It marked the lives of innocents... :(

    That's what I did. I looked at the pictures, read articles about it in the NY Times and the Washington Post and saw horrible video footage... all for research. What I saw made me sick :(


    I think that historical facts give more depth to a story and also bring history a little closer to your audience. For my previous story, I used parts of the American Revolutionary War... I learned more about American History with my research than on school ;)
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I prefer to think of the history as providing the backdrop and framework for the personal stories in a historical novel. In my current project, for each era, I constructed a detailed historical timeline and then devised a fictional timeline and storyline. However, you have to take care that your story doesn't simply become a regurgitated history lesson.
     
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  10. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. Recent history is history just the same, and if it's the backdrop you still have to watch out for infodumping. Just like their fictional counterparts, historical events should be handled only as needed and through the lenses of your characters.
     
  11. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I totally blend fiction with examples from my non-fiction real life. Stories, jokes, situations? All make excellent fodder for your writing!

    Write what you know!!!! :)
     
  12. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    I agree with using real events and people in my stories. They may not have a starring role, but it helps the reader anchor or orient themselves, and the more fantastical elements are more easily swallowed.

    So I refer to real events, although in my case, they usually are historic. Way back in the past.
     
  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    If your novel takes place in Boston in 2013 - it would be historically inaccurate NOT to at least mention the bombings. It defined the year for that city and riveted the whole country. The degree to which you mention it is up to you but to gloss over it would actually bother me as a reader.
     
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  14. whatsizbucket
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    whatsizbucket New Member

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    I have to agree with everyone here. Whether it was Columbine, or any other tragedy, historical accuracy is key. Reading people's comments, and reactions on message boards, and getting a feel for the reactions and other aspects of the lives affected, living or dead, will just bring the reader into your story.

    For example, if you are just going to mention anything about Columbine, you could use a TV spot with people reactions, and all the students, and their candlelit vigils, etc. Just have it as a background thing to bring things together.

    Just thinking out loud.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I think it's tricky. Also, I got no sense of how you intend to do this, so I'll explore a few possibilities in my answer. I have mixed real events and fiction in my stories before, but I used events from my life. Every time you want to use real events from someone else's life, you should ask for permission, or disguise it so it isn't recognisable. With massive events like terror attacks, personally, I think it would be in poor taste to change the facts of the event to suit your story. Also, it is a double edge sword of an idea, because tying in your plot with a ready-made real life event that has all the hallmarks of a suspense thriller, can be seen as lazy or even piggybacking on the popularity of the event to gain sales. The best case scenario is to simply reference it, but not make it central to the plot and to refrain from preaching and lecturing the reader with a personal point of view (unless you want to have to argue about it later on).

    If central to the plot, I would prefer to use an imaginary terror attack, that can be based on these bombings but change things a bit, put some thought into it, and then put thoughts on page. Or make a more personal story in the context of the attack, but anything to do with the attack, should be faithful to real events.
     
  16. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    I put real life events and mix them up in my stories. If that's wrong, well, who said we had to be right? I bend some of the rules to my advantage, as all writers should.
     
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  17. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    Mixing real life situations into a story is something a lot of writers do. Since that was so recent I would just keep in mind how you represent it. Making sure you are accurate and how would a victim or witness feel reading the story.
     
  18. cynthia_1968
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    cynthia_1968 Active Member

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    I don't know how a victim or witness would feel, all I know is how I felt when I saw it on the news. To me, it was dreadful.

    Still, 'Hotel of the Death - the black widow ' is a horror/thriller/fantasy combo, that took place during the attack in Boston last year. You can read the prologue, if you want, on the section "short stories, horror."
     
  19. Chad Lutzke
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    Chad Lutzke Member

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    I see no problem at all using them as long as it's not in the context of glorifying or condoning the event. We all live on the same planet and bleed the same blood. These events hit us all in negative ways but on different levels. Sometimes writing about something can try and help redeem a situation, especially if you could bring about some good out of it for the human race.


    ~Chad Lutzke
     

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