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Terri DuLong | Truth VS. Fiction

The definition of fiction the dictionary gives is, “novels or stories in which the characters and incidents are wholly or partly imaginary.” As an author, I write women’s fiction, so what I’m referring to here doesn’t necessarily involve other genres and what I want to discuss is the “believability” of characters and plot.

Where do you get your story ideas, I’m often asked. And your characters, are they real people? My story ideas come from everywhere….snippets of conversation I might overhear, real life stories from the news, anywhere and everywhere. And about my characters being real people…..yes and no. Of course, to me, they’re very real while I’m creating them. Once fully developed, they also come from a multitude of places. That patient I had many years ago when I worked in the Intensive Care Unit, that cashier at a supermarket, a family member no longer here, a stranger I observed in an airport and the list goes on and on.

Which brings us to the question, “What makes a plot or character believable?” The longer I’m an author, the more I’m beginning to think that the answer to this is simply, “Whatever the reader might feel.” In other words, I may read about a character that has me shaking my head and thinking “Would she really have acted or reacted that way?” And another reader, based on her own life experiences, would have no doubt whatsoever that yes, she perfectly understood how and why a character said or did a certain thing.

Which now leads me to talk about truth vs fiction. I believe the reason most of us write fiction is because the sky’s the limit. In other words, we can control and develop plots and characters that might be out of the ordinary, might be a little far-fetched, might not be like anything you or I have ever encountered . . . but, it’s all fiction and as long as the story is coherent, has a beginning, middle and end, it should qualify as such, shouldn’t it?

In my first novel, Spinning Forward, my main character at age fifty-two, discovers her biological mother when she relocates to a small island off the coast of Florida . Far-fetched? Probably. Unbelievable? Maybe. But the truth of it is . . . it actually is not as fictional as one might think. A few months after my novel was released, I happened to see a news clip about two brothers, adopted at birth, that were living in nearby towns, and worked at the same company. Co-workers began to comment how much they resembled each other, which led them to doing some research and yes, they were indeed brothers. Far-fetched? Probably. However, this was not fiction. This was truth.

I recently had an experience in my own life that’s only further proof that there is a very fine line between truth and fiction. I received an email from a stranger in England . . . due to a WWII romance in England that my uncle had (and unbeknownst to the family) I was being contacted, over sixty years later, by my cousin! Unbelievable? Most definitely! But I now have that female cousin that I longed for all of my life and she’s very real.

So as authors, I think we need to pay less attention to what might be considered far-fetched. If you have a good story and you write it well, chances are that your readers will not only accept it, but love it. Don’t let go of those seeds of inspiration. Don’t spend time dwelling on truth vs fiction. Just write!

My newly released book 2 in my Cedar Key Series, Casting About, has to do with a character that is not only unsure of ever wanting children, but as a newlywed, she’s thrust into the position of becoming a step-mom. Is the way I chose to handle her character traits and reaction more truth or fiction? As the author, I can’t help but feel . . . it’s a combination of both, and I think most fiction authors unconsciously cross this line back and forth every time they develop a story.

So don’t let somebody tell you that your story is far-fetched or unbelievable. Do what you do best . . . write! And write from your heart, because this kind of writing always wins out as the truth.

I'm giving away 2 copies of CASTING ABOUT and 2 copies of HOLIDAY MAGIC...writers need to leave a comment telling me if they draw more on truth or fiction when writing their characters and readers tell me your thoughts on truth vs fiction related to your reading choices.




44 comments posted.

Re: Terri DuLong | Truth VS. Fiction

I prefer fiction over truth for the most part because I can get myself wrapped up in a fiction story just as if it were a movie playing out in my head and I love movies and I love letting my imagination take me to the story that the author is writing and really getting into it.
I do like truth or nonfiction (mostly crime, I don't know why) books but then you have to deal with the reality of it and it can bring you to places you may not want to go, the imagination works on realism and it can be disheartening at times.
Thanks for the opportunity to win one of your fantastic books, I'd really like to read the Casting About selection.

Thanks again
(Karen Appleby 7:36pm November 1, 2010)

reader: truth is sometimes hard to follow and anjoy, ficton is easier to let yourself loose to hve fun while reading the what ifs. :) but I guess it would depend on the truth that is written.
(Dina Stornello 8:39pm November 1, 2010)

Casting About sounds delightful!
(Marjorie Carmony 6:33am November 8, 2010)

Sounds like a wonderful story! I prefer working off of reality over fiction.
(Aleksandra Nearing 8:09am November 8, 2010)

Personally I don't mind fiction or truth as long as it's an engaging story with characters I want to love.

in Germany
(Valerie Bongards 11:19am November 8, 2010)

I lean more toward fiction... not a writer... I enjoy the escape, the travels, the journey through fictional books...
(Colleen Conklin 1:41pm November 8, 2010)

I'm a reader and find the more that I read the more diversity I enjoy. I find the most important thing is that the writing is good, intresting, and challenges me whether to learn something new, look at something a different way or to be more understanding.

I must admit that I do enjoy historical romance because of the history that I learn but I enjoy contemporary romance because I often connect with or learn about the area of world or the the city in which it is set.

To me reading is about enjoyment, learning and understanding of the world and people around us.
(Jeanne Miro 2:47pm November 8, 2010)

I go for fiction because it's more interesting and I will search out facts and topics on my own.
(Leni Kaye 4:13pm November 8, 2010)

As a reader I am often drawn to stories based on fact rather than 'just' fiction.
(Mary Preston 4:26pm November 8, 2010)

I enjoy fiction as long as it is believable. I like to read about fictional characters and how they might behave in a factual situation.
(Robin McKay 4:28pm November 8, 2010)

When I write, I like to
fictionalize as much as possible
about characters. That way I can
protect the not-so-innocent!
(Margay Roberge 4:54pm November 8, 2010)

I enjoy reading fiction. The older I get the more I believe that truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction. 35 years go my brother in law took my 3 month nephew and disappeared for 30 days. Unheard of then, today there are Amber Alerts. About the time that happened my then husband was going at it with the woman of the couple that were our best friends. Thankfully they are "happily" married now and I have enjoyed 32 years of wedded bliss my the man that is my heart and soul. This year he has battled prostate cancer and won. I could go on - but you would think the next thing would be the invasion of the locusts!
(Amy Viverette 5:00pm November 8, 2010)

I usually read fiction because it just seems that it's lighter fare than biographies, etc.
(Sue Farrell 5:24pm November 8, 2010)

There are times when I'm reading and I can relate to the situations because I have had similar ones or have known someone who has. Of course, there are also times when a story seems far fetched to me, but maybe not to someone else.
(Maureen Emmons 5:25pm November 8, 2010)

Fiction fiction fiction! I read to get away from real life so i like fiction unless it gets way out in left field and to hard to belive but that doesn't happen often.

Lisa B
(Lisa Boggs 6:07pm November 8, 2010)

Hi Terri, fiction has been the most exciting works for me. I love to see how authors are able to create completely new "worlds" and have the reader consumed in it. I love to feel like I've been captured into the storyline and I've been given the front seat to an emotional roller coaster. I realize some people can get this from truth, but, fiction always seems to reel me in. :)
(Jill Oswalt 6:09pm November 8, 2010)

Honestly, truth is often much stranger than fiction! Sometimes I read something and think, there's no way that could really happen, but a book is like TV or the movies, it's a book and sometimes it's okay to stretch the imagination and therefore, the "truth". ;)
(Kelli Jo Calvert 6:11pm November 8, 2010)

I agree..my truth has always been stranger!
(Silvana Moscato 6:19pm November 8, 2010)

I enjoy both and like it when thay are mixed, a great story that is based on truth but fiction
(Vickie Hightower 6:21pm November 8, 2010)

Reader here: prefer fiction - want to get away from problems and enjoy the enjoyable read.
(Pat Lieberman 6:26pm November 8, 2010)

I prefer fiction with a happy ending. Many true stories have too much sadness in them.
(Diane Sallans 7:31pm November 8, 2010)

Fiction is more fun to get caught up in. Truth is also mixed with fiction most of the time.
(Linda Pillow 8:21pm November 8, 2010)

I like when fiction can cross over into reality. It's one of
the reasons I love women's ficiton, because I can read
about different characters living things that I might
have experienced or might yet experience. If we have a
shared experience I enjoy reading what decisions they
made to get a resolution, and if it's something I think I
might yet experience it's a good lesson to take forward
into life.
(Sandi Shilhanek 8:43pm November 8, 2010)

fiction works so much better for a romance then truth.
(Sonya Hucks 8:48pm November 8, 2010)

Reader: It's depends on how the truth is written. There are fiction that are based on something that really have happened like the Titantic but reading it as a factual makes most of us wants to fall asleep. We only processed so much information.

Having a fictional story based on truth makes the story easier to read and enjoy.
(Kai Wong 9:05pm November 8, 2010)

Mostly a reader, but once in a very great while, I'll write something for my own enjoyment. For instance, I had an assignment in a german class I took a few years ago to write a 100-word short story. We could write it in english and then translate it, which is how I started. 2 1/2 years later, it's still not finished, but is well past the 100-word count. almost 7 pages. single-spaced, to be exact. It's a combination of fairytale (sort of) and real people that I know and love reacting to the side effects of music (sort of).

So, I guess for me, it can go either way, but I kind of prefer fiction, especially historical, because I learn about the period and am entertained at the same time!!


(Lynn Rettig 9:23pm November 8, 2010)

I prefer fiction. Reading for me is an escape so I prefer unusual plots. I am a firm believer that if the characters are written well you can make any plot, no matter how unusual, believable.
(Cherie Japp 9:44pm November 8, 2010)

I love reading fiction. Getting lost in a story... Wondering, knowing that this might really be happening somewhere...
(Jenny Finstrom 9:47pm November 8, 2010)

I tend mostly to fiction
(Catherine Myers 10:38pm November 8, 2010)

I enjoy reading fiction.
(Ginger Hinson 10:45pm November 8, 2010)

I prefer to read fiction, but when a good autobiography comes out, I do like to read it, as well as books about current events that have good story lines. Friends have asked me to write a book, and of course it would be non-fiction, but for now I haven't had the time, nor the guts to put pen to paper. One day soon I hope to make it a reality.
(Peggy Roberson 11:45pm November 8, 2010)

I love books, and it doesn't bother me if an author draws from truth or fiction, as long as I can drop myself into one of the character's shoes and picture it happening with some level of believability. That doesn't mean I expect things to be realistic and based only on what actually occurs today... it means I should be able to picture the storyline as logical from the perspective of the charachter.
(Donna Holmberg 11:54pm November 8, 2010)

I read a lot of fiction stories and enjoy them greatly; but I just finished a story that stretched the plot to such far-fetched limits that it seemed like the author was just trying to add stuff to give the book additional pages. So I found out that it is possible to add too many unpossible events to a story.
(Gladys Paradowski 12:45pm November 9, 2010)

Let's make that "unpossible" into "impossible." It is almost midnight and I am sleepy. LOL
(Gladys Paradowski 12:47pm November 9, 2010)

I like the fictional, but over the years have learned that 'truth is stranger than fiction!' Even biographical books are tainted by 'selective memory'. But I just enjoy reading and the 'take me away' from my reality. Thanks for your writing... I really enjoyed "Spinning Forward'!
(Cate Sparks 8:27am November 9, 2010)

I prefer fiction, but I really like historical fiction, as that adds an element of believability to the story.
(Pam Howell 11:23am November 9, 2010)

I love fiction! Especially mystries. You can picture the scene in your mind's eye, & everyone has there own vision of what it looks like, along with the characters. Your mind can handle it alot easier than if it were true life. And there is always a good ending (mostly), for your hero/heroine. I also have a special place in my heart for historical fiction (especially medival) that is based on true facts. The main characters & places are real, but there is a story or mystery created around them. I had read one such story & remembered seeing the dress that was mentioned in the book in a museum in England. Really cool. The dress was real the story was fiction!
(S W 12:37pm November 9, 2010)

As a reader I draw towards fiction because it's a mixture of ones own experiences as well as a fantasy world. Let's face it, I like to read fiction to go into a world away from the reality of my world. The symbolism through out a book in general heightens my senses and captures my mind. I find myself captivated with the character with each and every word! In my opinion an excellent book weaves truth and fiction to create a story that is believable.
(Annete Horton 12:55pm November 9, 2010)

Truth...Fiction...doesn't matter as long as it holds my interest and sparks my imagination!
(Karen Krack 2:11pm November 9, 2010)

Sometimes truth sounds like fiction. I don't care which it is as long as the story is interesting.
(Anna Speed 3:14pm November 9, 2010)

I read anything and everything. Sometimes truth makes the best fiction, but fiction can be way more exciting than my life. As long as the story is engaging and entertaining, it doesn't matter where it comes from or if it's real or not.
(Cassie Holloway 4:25pm November 9, 2010)

Some of the wildest imaginations have penned the best writings. I enjoy a good turn on the words of others and sometimes even I can make myself laugh with the antics of the characters in my own tales.
(Alyson Widen 5:40pm November 9, 2010)

One of the reasons I prefer reading historical fiction is so I can escape my everyday life. I don't like non-fiction books at all because they are just too boring. So, to answer your question, I'm in the fiction camp 100%! I want to be entertained when I read and if it means a far-flung idea, so be it. :D
(Molly Wilsbacher 10:48pm November 9, 2010)

I just wanted to thank everybody so much for all of your comments here! I deeply appreciate your support!
Fresh Fiction has notified me of the two winners for my One Day Only Blog Contest...........and those autographed copies have gone into the mail, so congrats!

I'm also very pleased that CASTING ABOUT was chosen as a Fresh Pick on Nov. 17 and I've proudly added that graphic to my Island Writer blog. Again, thank you, everyone!
(Terri DuLong 10:45am November 21, 2010)

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