Our guest today is Kathryn Craft, the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. Her work as a freelance developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads writing workshops, and is a member of the Tall Poppy Writers.
For more than a decade I sorted through the chaos of my first husband’s suicide, seeking order through short narrative arcs. I assumed I’d one day write a memoir—that life would serve story—but instead grew to appreciate more fully the way story can serve life. The day I realized that the best way to show how the standoff had seared our lives would be to constrain the story to its twelve hours, I was well on my way toward novelizing. This post reflects some of my learning about the process.
Tips for Novelizing True Events
We writers draw inspiration from our own experience all the time. We can’t help it—the events of our lives, how they made us feel, and what we’ve learned from them have created the very perspective from which we write.
[pullquote]Story is a series of carefully constructed, thematic, and escalating pressures brought to bear on a character in pursuit of a goal. Life isn’t. [/pullquote]That real-life influence can be oblique, as when I wrote The Art of Falling. I didn’t need to suffer Penelope Sparrow’s crippling sense of body image to understand the way our bodies can betray us; my body had miscarried two deeply desired pregnancies.
In my novel releasing this week, The Far End of Happy, the real life inspiration is more straightforward. From my work as a freelance editor, I knew that predictable pitfalls abound when novelizing true events. Here’s how to steer clear of them, should you decide to give it a go.
- Compose using every instrument. Chances you’ve already shared this real-life event verbally, perhaps time and again. “I can’t believe that happened to you,” people may respond. “You should write a book!” Now that you are, resist the temptation to rely upon your reader’s vicarious interest in “what happened.” Even if you “tell” the story well, it won’t be enough. Telling is like singing a bard’s melody—why stop there when literature allows you to evoke emotional experience with the power of the entire symphony?