Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Fact in the Fiction

Much of one of my manuscripts takes place around an abandoned silver mine. Giant, gnawing holes so deep you can't see the bottom, stipple the ground where the earth has collapsed in on the mine shafts. Fact: I played at this mine as a teenager, snooping through the brush and ponderosa pines to find these sunken-in mine shafts. My cousin used to write stories about what came out of those shafts. I write about what's been dumped inside.

I have a neighbor. He's in his mid-twenties, braids his goatee, is as rough and hard as asphalt--the type of guy you make sure not to make eye-contact with if you see him on the street. He heard I wrote books and asked what they were about. I told him I had written a book called "The Hunted," about Skinwalkers. His lips thinned. He told me a story. A story that made his voice shake. A story he could not tell while looking at my eyes. He stared at his hands all the while, probably clasping them to keep them from trembling.

"I was chased by a Skinwalker. I was driving along a dirt road in the middle of the night. When I saw it, I pushed on the gas as hard as I could. It ran as fast as my car. It looked mostly human, but not quite. I have never been more scared of anything in my life. I've never told anyone." Fact: "The Hunted" part two is about Skinwalkers that look mostly human... but not quite.

An old family friend of mine worked as a security guard at a youth mental hospital. While doing rounds one night, he witnessed a teenage girl committing suicide--she had tied a shoelace around her neck and was twisting it tighter and tighter with the pencil she'd looped through it. He turned to the hallway and screamed for help. When he turned back, she was gone. While searching the records of the hospital, he found the report of a teenage girl who had committed suicide by shoelace and pencil--more than half a century before. Now there's the premise for a story. Fact: I don't write ghost stories. I don't dare.

So, tell me, how much of the fiction you write is based on fact?

18 comments:

Dominique said...

My real world stuff is usually based on the way the real world would impact a fictional concept. For example, how do you live in this world if you can't touch people? One of my characters faces such a problem. I've never met such a person, though I'm sure they would be interesting to talk to.

David J. West said...

I love using stories like that. I had a friend I work with tell me a weird ghost story about a mentally challenged boy who would run off into the hills at roughly the same time every afternoon and no one knew where he went-so one day my friend followed him and found him in a box canyon sitting talking to people who weren't there. Freaked him out.
I took that story and used it in my novel that is being released in 2 months HEROES OF THE FALLEN a speculative historical. I put it in a chapter where characters are telling ghost stories-all the other ghost stories are ones that are mine-that I had my main character telling and guess what? Those are the stories that are still in there and the one a friend told me is the one the editors cut out-guess mine were better.

Jessica said...

Yikes. That freaks me out.

I write cont. romance so there's not much paranormal involved, besides God, LOL, but I do try to keep the emotions true to life.

Bethany Wiggins said...

That is awesome, Dave. Congrats on the book coming out! It sounds fascinating.

WindyA said...

Oh, wow. Those are some scary stories. And I'm with you on the ghost stories thing. I can't write them either. There are a few books on my "to read" list that keep moving further and further down, not because I don't WANT to read them, but because I am too scared to read them!

And personally, I think all fiction is based on fact in some way shape or form. It's like tall tales, right? For the sake of entertainment, sometimes you take that little bit of truth, say a pencil and a shoelace, and spiral it into an amazing distraction for people.

Or you scare the crap out of them. Thanks for sharing the stories! :D

ElanaJ said...

That is creepy! I had no idea Skinwalkers were really real creatures!

I think a lot of our fiction is based in fact. I just took a class on how to find ideas, and every single thing the multi-published author said was something factual. Something you've experienced in your own life. Something you've seen in the news. Something you've observed in other people. So real life inspires fiction, I think.

Diana Paz said...

Oh no, I don't dare write ghost stories either, but I like reading the tamer ones :)

A lot of what I write is based on fact. Conveying emotion through writing, for me, is about sharing experiences...even if I haven't personally experienced exactly what my character has, I've experienced the feelings she has, and those feelings are based on the factual events I've gone through :)

coffeelvnmom said...

I think a lot of my writing is based on fact because that's where I can draw my feelings from -- personal experience. I would also rather write about something I know, because at least I know I'm going to get it right. I'm from California, so if I wrote about a girl living in New Mexico, I wouldn't have a clue as to what I was talking about;)

Suzanne said...

All the sensory stuff is real. The stories are fiction.

Great post! Had me thinking!

Amy Tate said...

I absolutely love mix-matching facts for fiction. One of the best short stories that I read at Hollins University was about a guy who took a girl on a date to a hospital. They both put on p.j's and walked hand in hand up and down the halls. I know it sounds strange, but it was fascinating. And by the way, your ghost story gave me chills!

Bardmaid said...

Since I mostly write fantasy many of my ideas come from my dreams. Still, I store up those interesting true stories as well. For example I have a friend who told me some of the local legends and ghosts stories of her area. She says people in her neighborhood have claimed to see everything from ghosts and exotic monsters to UFOs. I ask her for more details every time she brings upthese things. She knows I like to write and doesn't mind me asking. You just never know when you might find a good story!

Bardmaid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Hey Bethany thanks for checking out my blog. I've been a lurker on yours for awhile. The Hunted sounds creepy and the coincidence with your neighbor *shudder* double creepy.

Your neighbor may be like my brother though. Anything that you tell my brother he will turn right back around and try to convince you that he did it or that it happened to him too.

Bardmaid said...

Sorry for the double post I didn't think it went through the first time.

Bethany Wiggins said...

Barmaid, about the double comment... we just figured you liked us twice as much as anyone else!

Michelle McLean said...

Bethany, I swear if you don't start warning me before bringing up skinwalkers I 'm just gonna have to TP your house or something! *sigh* Now I'm going to be jumping at noises all night. Again ;-D

Awesome post, and very creepy. It's 10 in the morning and I'm feeling the need to get out of the basement :D

B.J. Anderson said...

Holy moly! That freaks me out! I have chills all over. You should write ghost stories, because you are awesome at telling them!

Jacqui said...

This is too strange. I just started a YA novel about Skinwalkers because one of the scariest experiences of my life involved their legends. I grew up in AZ, just off the Navajo reservation. Much of my HS was Navajo, some Hopi. On two separate occasions a couple of my Navajo friends told Skinwalker stories--once on a bus after a sporting event, once to a pile of teenagers crammed into a little room at my parent's house. I have never been more freaked out in my life. The stories are very similar to the one you just told. EEK. Driving across the reservation was never the same for me.