How do you communicate your story without having to tell it? One way is to use fiction to tell true stories. Writers often use this tool when they (or their editors) feel that real life fails to produce great literature. (Julie Schumacher’s Turning Real Life into Fiction explains some of these quandaries.)
Beyond Literary Devices: When to Use Fiction to Tell True Stories
The family storyteller may have different motivations for using fiction to tell their stories. Literary excellence matters less than emotional practicalities. Family members might not be ready to hear the actual details, for instance. The reverse can also be true. Sometimes the family has been so immersed in the trauma and details of an event that they miss the over-arching “truth” of the story.
You also might not be ready to tell what happened to you. You may not be ready to name names. Perhaps you’re foggy on a couple of the details. Explaining that a fictional story has a basis in reality can give loved ones insight into your past without giving them direct access to your wounds.
Advocating through Fictional Stories
Fictional accounts provide the opportunity to advocate by emphasizing certain parts of the story. When you openly state that your fiction resembles your reality, your readers understand your authority as a narrator. However, the fiction shifts their focus from the details of your life to your advocacy.
This is what author Lorraine Reguly does in Risky Issues, a collection of short stories based on her life. In each of the stories, a young teen encounters and negotiates a difficult issue. Reguly explains her motivation for sharing fictionalized stories:
The reason I have decided to share these stories with the world is to help spread awareness about some of the issues that children, teens, and even young adults may struggle with, including – and especially – the issue of sexual abuse…
It is my hope that those who are in similar situations can find the strength and the courage to speak out about their fears and experiences instead of holding their secrets inside – whatever these secrets or issues may be.
It’s tough enough being a child, but being a child with no one to speak to is even harder.
Let’s change that. Now.
Have you used fiction to tell true stories? How did that work for you?
More about Lorraine:
Lorraine Reguly definitely has stories to tell. She’s a rape survivor and single mom. She’s had a brush with death and has contemplated suicide. Her site, WordingWell.com, features her blog, book reviews (including one of Memories of Me), and writer services. You can connect with Lorraine on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.