Is there Fact in Your Fiction?

March 25, 2011

Although I would consider my non-fiction writing ‘creative’ non-fiction, I’d have to say that I made sure that I only wrote factual articles. Not that there was a lot of controversy in the magazine and newspaper articles I wrote.

During the five years I wrote cooking columns there were occasional letters or phone calls from purist cooks who didn’t like my use of a bread machine for my pizza dough, or that felt my tamales were not authentic because I replaced the lard with vegetable oil…and they were right, but I didn’t claim purity or authenticity, just what I believed to be good food.

Whether I was writing a cooking column, parenting article or a piece on public speaking, I did my research, used expert sources and only wrote “the facts.”

So here I am making up stories…and the plot is fiction. The characters exist only in the world in my head. But I find myself verifying “facts,” as if the story were real (as I said, in my head it is). Does that street really exist? Did the South Bay Surfing Santa surf during those years? Would it have been high tide—low tide—at that time? Is there a parking meter there?

My husband, Paul, reads every page as I write. “Hey,” he says as he looks over my latest pages. “I thought she lived on Pier Avenue!”

“Well…she did,” I answer. “But then I was down there this morning, and she can’t possibly live there. There aren’t any homes or apartments.”

“Who cares?” he asks “It’s fiction.”

The truth is he’s right, and the story works better if she lives on Pier Ave. I can just make up my own street, maybe Pier Way or Harbor Lane, and put an apartment there for her. IT’S JUST REALLY HARD TO CHANGE THE FACTS!

So anyway, she lives on Pier Ave.!

What about you? How far do you take fact in your fiction?

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