- Writer Unboxed - https://writerunboxed.com -

Tips for Novelizing True Events

kathryncraft [1]Our guest today is Kathryn Craft [2], the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling [3] and The Far End of Happy [4]. 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.

Connect with Kathryn on her blog [5], on Facebook [6], and on Twitter [7].

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.

Unconvinced on that last point? Remember: your reader did not choose to read a biography or a memoir. She chose a story off a shelf that includes Kingsolver. Gaiman. Flynn. She expects that “even though” and perhaps “because” some of your events were true, you have access to the raw material that will soon transport her along a road similar to the one that changed your life—but this time, aided by the full benefit of that engrossing alchemy of the real and the imagined known as the modern-day novel.

That doesn’t mean your work is any less “true.” It just means that you are a novelist who understands that sometimes the accumulation of fact is less compelling than evoking emotional truth through story.

Have you drawn inspiration from real life events or experiences? What pitfalls have you encountered? What successes?

About Kathryn Craft [9]

Kathryn Craft is 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 [10] follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she leads writing workshops and retreats, and is a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. Learn more on Kathryn's website.