about genre, novel ?

by aspiring writer

Question: I have a story about my family's history. Personal events, things they don't want anyone to know. How can I use the true events, while threading some untruth in there, to hide obvious identifiers. How do I know when to put down the absolute truth (as I saw it), and when to embellish? I don't want to hurt anyone, or bring up bad memories, but I think the story needs to be told. And told as truthfully as possible. Suggestions?

Answer: It may be difficult to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. If your family reads the book, they will know exactly what events you are referring to and who you are writing about (unless you're writing about events that happened so long ago that the participants are all dead, and even then...).

If you want to write the truth about what happened in your family, then perhaps you should decide you are writing biography or memoir. (Of course, for this to be marketable, you either need to be famous or the events must have a noteworthy place in history).

There is some risk to this if your book shines a negative light on the reputation of someone in your family in a way that damages their career, so you may need to change all the names and perhaps places and call it a fictionalized biography. You may need to write under a pseudonym as well.

But even in this case, your family may get angry with you for spilling their secrets.

Another approach that can spare your relatives some embarrassment is write a completely fictional story that no one outside the family will know is based on real life.

To do this, you would depict the events accurately, or even exaggerate them, but change the people involved in the events. Don't base characters directly on members of your family. Create original characters who just happen to get caught up in situations that resemble things that happened in your family. Give the characters different backstories, physical descriptions, and personalities. (This is done all the time in fiction.)

But even then, you can't get around the fact that some of your relatives will read the book and recognize the events depicted.

No easy solution, I'm afraid.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero