How to write fiction that is based on real life: 7 tips to bring your story to life

This is a guest post by Harlow Drake

My story isn’t a warm and fuzzy one.

My father was murdered when I was 12 years of age.

A few years ago, at my uncle’s urging, I looked into what happened to him. The police had suspects, but no one was ever arrested and the case remains unsolved.

I learned a lot about police procedure when I looked into my father’s murder. It was then that I decided to write a novel.

While my murder mystery novella, Life in Death, is not entirely based on what happened to my father, it draws from real life experiences I had with him.

Writing the novel was a cathartic experience for me. What I liked most and found particularly cleansing about the experience was my power to spin the story as I saw fit.

We all love, hate, laugh, cry, and everything in between, so we’re never at a loss for stories to tell.

Here’s how you get started writing a novel based on a true story:

  • Determine what kind of story you want to write. Talk to family and friends. Look at newspaper articles. I don’t want to be morose, but look at obituaries, too. Take notes. There are stories there.
  • Determine the story’s theme: Good/evil, love/hate, birth/death, peace/war, etc. Again, take notes. This may be where the title of your book comes from, or maybe not. The title of my book came to me in a dream.
  • Construct a compelling plot. I suggest creating a plot outline to start with. I used the “what if” technique to determine what would happen in my chapters. Basically, you ask yourself “what if” this or that happened to your character and expand from there.
  • Create dynamic scenes. My advice is that something has to happen in every chapter or scene.
  • Create multi-dimensional characters. Many writers, including yours truly, base their characters on real people and then add nuances to create more complexity and depth. This is one way to go.
  • Read, read, read. The more you read, the better writer you’ll become.

Truth can be stranger than fiction, but maybe not as entertaining. The key to writing a novel based on a true story is in spinning the story to make it enjoyable for readers.

Cheers!
About this post’s author:

Author Harlow Drake was born in Kansas City, MO, but grew up in Denver, CO. She relocated to North Carolina five years ago with her husband, two dogs, and 16-year old twins. Her debut novel Life in Death is a murder mystery that pulls from real-life situations in her own family history. She felt compelled to share her story with the world while offering a thrilling, entertaining, and amusing escape for readers. She loves to connect with her readers on Twitter, her blog, and on Facebook.