My plot is real life

by Denise
(Boise, ID)

Question: Can I write my "story", all true, sadly horrifying, and in continuance, from the perspective of "me" telling a true "story" about someone. I would of course change the names, timelines, locations, etc. Basically, I would be a narrator of these true life events of a person (which is actually me). Does that make sense?

Thanks for any guidance you can give me.
Denise

Answer: The simple answer is "yes." Many stories are based on real events with the identifying details altered.

Two things to keep in mind:

1. In order to create a well-structured story, you have to be selective about which real-life events to include and which to omit. Just because an event actually happened doesn't mean it belongs in the story. A story, as Aristotle pointed out, is a series of events linked by cause and effect. Each event in the story must cause the next one and all of them must contribute to the overall story, which will be about a change in the protagonist's life. Real life has lots of events that don't connect with each other.

That doesn't mean all the events have to be connected externally. Some events help change the characters internally -- how they grow, how they realize things about themselves and the world, how they evolve as people. But again, you have to be selective.

Try to figure out what the big change your story will be about -- whether it is an external or internal change, or perhaps both -- and then select the events that will tell that story.

2. You may have to change things a little to make a better story. It's okay to exaggerate some details or play with the timeline to heighten the drama. Since you are not writing an autobiography, the reader wants a good story first and foremost. Whether things actually happened that way is less important.

Best of luck.

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