Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Talk: Fact in Fiction

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a couple of writing workshops.  One of these focused on the use of real-life experiences in fiction writing.  In the many author events I have attended, the phrase "write what you know" is commonly shared.  But, where does a writer draw the line?

One panelist mentioned he changed up details to avoid offending his family, which his story is heavily influenced by. His thoughts ... It is not his story to tell.

Another panelist discussed the dilemma of ethics vs legality.  In America, we can write what we want because of our first amendment right (i.e., freedom of speech).  In other countries, writers are restricted to what can be written or fall to the consequences (some very extreme).

What fascinates me is the ethical dilemma here.  Should writers stick strictly to the fiction?  Should they hesitate to write others' stories because it is not our story to tell?  Or, do they help to share the voice behind these personal tales, both good and bad?  Where does one draw the line when it comes to the facts?  Do writers just change the names or embellish and cut the details?

Since sitting through this writing workshop, fact in fiction has really been on my mind.  Now, it's your turn to weigh in.

Where do you stand in the ethical debate of incorporating fact into fiction?  As a reader, do you think it provides more merit to a story?


  1. I don't think writers should just stick to fiction, but agree with the author on changing certain details to avoid upsetting his family. Or get their permission first. While it's not 100% his story, it does involve him and he has the right to share his story.

  2. Alexia561 ... I do agree with that! And, my other question is ... Is he maybe helping to share his family's story when they may not know how???


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