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DO REAL EVENTS INSPIRE YOUR FICTION?

May 29, 2019

You’ve probably all seen the movie quote “Inspired by true events.” Maybe, not as often, you may see it at the beginning of a book.

I recently read a great icky bug book series that was inspired by a true event. That made me think of how often do we, as writers get our ideas from true events versus inspiration from other sources.

ALL IDEAS COME FROM SOMEWHERE

No idea comes from a dry well. Every story idea and plot has to come from some nugget of inspiration. Maybe an old TV show, movie, or just an idea that’s been rolling around in our head for years. That’s especially true with fantasy and science fiction.

When it comes to real-world stories, there’s a likelier chance some real-world incident may be the root inspiration for your story.

REAL-WORLD INSPIRATION

As for me, I generally get my inspirations out of thin air. However, a lot of the time, my inspirations, at least for my real-world adventure/thrillers and icky bug come from locations, rather than real events. In the case of my adventure/thrillers, Lusitania Gold was based on a real event, the sinking of the Lusitania. On the other hand, the rest of the series was based on locations, rather than specific events.

My new friend, Trent, who writes horror, started his series based on a real event. The stories aren’t based on reality, but were inspired by this true event. I’ve seen many stories take root from something real and go off on their own tangent and take a life of their own.

FICTIONALIZED REALITY

This is a case where the story is based on real events, but the author is filling in the blanks, based on what he speculates the real characters might have said and did, rather than what may have actually happened. Why? Because there’s nobody around to fill in those blanks. Either the real people are all dead, or unwilling to participate in the story. While this seemingly can lead to liability issues, if done with taste and dignity, it can be accomplished without ruffling too many feathers. These stories have even ruffled feathers to little consequence.

Another term for it is fictionalized autobiography.

STARTING OFF POINT

The whole point of the initial true event isn’t to tell that story, but to be the starting off point for a fictional story. If you were telling that story, it would be non-fiction. After all, you’re describing the true event. Inspired by means exactly that. The even inspired you to go off into your own world, meaning you in no way are just reciting history. You’re creating an entirely different story, using the true event as the catapult.

That distinction must be made. When someone says “Inspired by true events,” that does NOT mean they’re telling the story of that event. Too many people assume that’s the case. On TV they do that all the time, yet people get all flustered when the actual show goes way off the rails. Everyone should KNOW that it’s not going to be historically accurate! Geez!

The same for your book. My book. Lusitania Gold was inspired by a true event. Yet my story is in no way a historical accounting of the sinking of the real ship. It’s a completely fictionalized adventure/thriller inspired by that infamous sinking. If anyone wants to know the real story, they should get countless non-fiction accounts of the sinking!

SUMMARY

We get the inspiration for our stories from many sources, real and imagined. There’s nothing wrong with giving a nod to the real sources.

Happy writing!

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