Saturday, March 20, 2010

Truth versus Fiction

I've been looking for inspiration for my next work and have therefore been paying more attention to the news. I've heard many authors say they get inspiration from what they see on TV or what they read in the newspapers.

Do you think there are any limits to real life as inspiration for fiction works?

I have two crime novels in mind as I write this post. The fist was a blatant rip-off of a particularly ghastly crime, and I hated the book. I could hardly finish it, and my feeling toward the work was partly based on the lack of originality, and partly a reaction to the ickiness of the crime (which disgusted me when I had read news versions of the story in the press a year or two earlier).

The other book did it right. It had elements of a well known crime, but was adapted and revised in so many ways that it worked and worked well. The story was original, the real life events were far from obvious.

I think if one were to write in such a way as to pretty much mirror the real crime, then it may be best to call it creative nonfiction and then to proceed in the manner of Truman Capote in "In Cold Blood".

What are your thoughts on truth versus fiction?


  1. As inspiration, true crime is good, but an out and out copy of a real story should be billed as "creative non-fiction"... I think...

  2. Case in point was Denise Mina's first, widely acclaimed crime novel. It took me to a place I'd really rather never have gone. Even years later, I feel strongly that a clearly labeled non-fiction work, however creative, would have been preferable to the story she hung around the shoulders of her new series heroine.

    Besides, I like to believe that the author has created something entirely new, poured something of their soul into the book, not merely collected the bulk of their plot and characters from a newspaper.