writing about writing

Based on A True Story

Posted by Flood on June 14, 2006

Those of you who read The Rehearsal, might have found the end unoriginal. True, we've all read in horror stories of this kind in the news. Deliverance may come to mind or maybe a disturbing episode of the X-Files. This isn't a nothing-new-under-the-sun post, though.

The Rehearsal is based on a true story, in that:

  • South Mountain is a real place in which a clan has been procreating via incest (and non-familial sexual abuse) for over 7 generations
  • The girl in my story is based one of the girls I went to school with after the clan was raided one time
  • The final words spoken by Leesa in the story were actually said, though to a teacher and not a woman she met on the street

Growing up during the time that members of the clan were arrested and kids were integrated into my school was like a nightmare. There was a lot of injustice, both to the victims and the abusers.

Most of my writing has some truth behind it, in the sense that something happened directly to me or affected me in some way. Jane Stafford's Flag is also based on a true story, though I took huge poetic license with it. I've been obsessed with the biography Life with Billy since I was a kid. (I lived also near the Staffords.) Jane Stafford's death in 1992 was mysterious and added a morbid fascination to an already unsettling story.

It could be said that real writers make up things that never happened. However, I am not the kind of writer that can make up a world, person, plot, that I didn't come in contact with in reality. I admire those of you who can do this, because without you, we wouldn't have Star Wars or Dracula or E.T.

I love Jack Ketchum. My favourite book of his, The Girl Next Door, is a fictional account of the 1965 torturing death of Sylvia Likens. He creates a much better ending than the true story. I think that's the attraction to this kind of writing. Not only can you work out things that impact you, but you can compose an improvement of the facts.

Not all of my writing is dark and dreary, but the same applies to the lighter stuff. My what-if's come from people around me or events that moved me.

Today, I want to know where your ideas come from. Specifically. Like Bernita's fondness with the Luck Of Edenhall. Or the painting that moved Jaye. What kind of things affect you enough that you write about them? You don't have to give away plot, just give us a sense of what kind of real life events move you to create a story. (I am guessing some of your answers.)


No Responses Yet to “Based on A True Story”

  1. Deborah said

    The Girl Next Door was a powerful read.

    My ideas come from stories that I’ve heard about (such as a lynching that occurred in my city in the 1930s) or dreams.

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