Truth isn’t Stranger than Fiction: It is Fiction.

The week before last I posted what I termed a “small literary experiment” on this here blog:

(A Life Just Ordinary ) It may not have appeared to anyone who read my short piece of fiction like an experiment at all. A bog-standard piece of third person narrative describing a character and one incident in her life. Nothing unusual or experimental in that you might say.

Only I lied. A little bit. Because technically it wasn’t a piece of fiction. Some who know me in real life may have  suspected it was not entirely fictitious but this matters not as the main reason for my trying this experiment was to find out how convincingly I could write about my own life in the third person and maybe convince others it was fictional.

The real deal?

I decided to do this after reading two other blogs that week. The first was from Drew Chial where he explored trying to keep his memoirs out of his fiction (read his blog here : . The second was from Cedrix Clarke who posted an old story of his written when he in his twenties of which he said those who read it would get to know him better ( ). Both of these blog posts inspired me to show myself up as the kind of writer I currently am: one who really only knows how to take  real life events and embellish it in the guise of fiction.

Nothing’s ever what it seems.

The story I posted two weeks ago I had actually composed about a year ago and is in fact a memoir from my childhood. I find it incredibly difficult to write completely fictitiously and cannot help bringing memoirs in to all of my writing and I probably don’t try hard enough to not do so. I don’t apologise for this (even though personally I believe this makes me a less accomplished writer than most.) But  I reason as someone who struggles with character writing  who do I know best? Whose thoughts can I delve into most comprehensively? Who’s motivations do I understand above all others? I have a range of experiences and I also have a range of personas (as we all do) which I can draw on for different purposes, both in life and on paper. I believe a variety of my own characteristics pop up in some form or another in most of the characters I write.

Anyway, back to the post “A Life Just Ordinary.” It came from the fact that I have toyed with the idea of writing an autobiography or full memoir for a long time. I probably never will as realistically it’s a hell of a job and it would be slightly narcissistic of me to expect anyone would wish to read it, although some friends in the past have hinted to me that I should write one. (“I don’t want to read your children’s fantasy adventure, but if you write your life story I’ll read it” – which I find bizarre as they know most of it!) They have said this possibly because some interesting stuff has happened to me or possibly because when I recount certain episodes of my life to people I seem able to do it in a way that interests them; usually tongue and cheek; usually with humour.

However if I was to write one I would want to do something different.  I’ve thought about it more in terms of experimenting with how to present one. An anonymous autobiography? As a piece of fiction similar to what Jeanette Winterson did with ‘Oranges are not the Only Fruit’ (although that’s been done before) or perhaps as a series of short fiction pieces? And I have experimented with all of these approaches just for my own writerly fun. I’ve experimented with me as female and male protagonists, dead, alive, first & third person. From this I have  discovered that writing in the third person  is much  easier for me when writing about myself because I feel it allows me to a look on my experiences in a more detached way rather than in an involved way, which can be too emotional.

If I did ever write an autobiography I would probably opt to write it in a series of short stories about a main protagonist who of course would in reality  be me.  The challenge in doing this, as I see it, would be to do it without it being strikingly obvious that the main protagonist was me. if that makes any kind of sense.

The piece I shared two weeks ago was just my way of finding out if I could pull it off. It was by no means a polished piece and I could easily have made Lily a boy and disguised myself further. There were obviously some details made up for the purposes of  fiction as is always necessary when you bring other people in to it, but also in order to make the mundane and ordinary more dramatic. There were a few minor details altered in the piece from the events which actually took place but essentially it was as it happened, interspersed with other memories from other times to help the story.  The feelings and thoughts of Lily, however, were all mine. Or rather my ten year old self’s feelings. Although on re-reading the piece I realise my views, personality and feelings have not changed greatly in nearly 30 years!

Through these experiments  I also want to prove that writing the ordinary, the mundane, the what you know rather than complete fiction often can yield good results. I had some great responses to the piece the other week and the character Lily seemed to go down well. So I think I can take her/me further.

I am a self confessed realist in my writing,, I rarely write anything which has not some element of truth or realism in it. This may seem strange considering I spend a lot of my time writing a fantasy adventure trilogy for children. However, if I consider the story, it is not TOTAL fantasy. The world of the elflings mixes with the human world and there are references to real life events in history. (Yes, it is as odd and weird as it sounds. An epic fantasy adventure with a half historical/ half fantasy world setting. Hmmmm. Selling the novel well here aren’t I?…..

Anyway, I digress. On the subject of writing fiction with an element of truth it is  worth pointing out I also write short 140 character stories/poems on Twitter every Friday. This is part of a fun game created by Amy Good called Friday Phrases. (find out more here: )  Bar one, all of my Friday Phrases so far has been rooted in something which has happened to me. Some have been exaggerations based on one tiny event and twisted in my imagination. Each one has come from either some small, often innocuous, incidental event or at times some huge life altering time  in my life. Maybe one day I’ll reveal more about that. Or perhaps I should work harder on writing real fiction!

Who knows? For me writing is fun, often cathartic. If  other people want to read what I write and enjoy it, well then that’s a bonus.

Every snap shot can tell a story.

As always, Thanks for reading.


Filed under Writing

5 responses to “Truth isn’t Stranger than Fiction: It is Fiction.

  1. What an awesome experiment! By the way, I read your piece from last week and totally thought it was fictional. You had me fooled!

    • Thanks for commenting Amira. Only my brother and sister, who both commented on the original piece, probably would have had any clue.They recognised details in the setting, but I’ll have to speak to them to see if they recognised me in Lily! 🙂

  2. I didn’t see this piece until today, but a pleasure deferred is often the sweeter for it, and such is the case with your revelation about “A Life Just Ordinary”. I do remember that one thing that struck me about the original story was how you, as a writer, were so comfortable in Lily’s skin, and that it very much felt like she had a life either side of the events of the story.

    You say you struggle with character writing, but if that really is the case, it doesn’t show. You have a great grasp of character, and certainly drawing on your own truths is an effective way of achieving that.

    An interesting insight into your (always excellent) Friday Phrases, by the way. I shan’t dwell on which (if any) of mine are based on real life 😉

    An awesome post, and I look forward to reading more from you soon 🙂

  3. Awww well thank you very much kind sir! I guess my real challenge is to now write characters as believable as er…well… me! Ha ha! I’m confusing myself. I was told by a child who read the first draft of my WIP that the characters for my kid’s story were not 2 dimensional but had “distinguishable characteristics of their own” (Words from a 10 yr old, I kid you not!) though fantasy elflings are not quite the same as trying to get into the head of ‘normal’ people for ‘normal’ stories.

    The next part of the story gives a motivation for Lily’s “attack” though I don’t think the two events were actually that intrinsically linked so yes she does have a life either side of the event which the story depicts.

    Hee Hee 😀 re. Friday phrases. I hope to God very few of yours are based in reality! 😉

    Thank you once more for your kind words. 🙂

  4. Pingback: I’d like to thank my agent… | Writeaway

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