Yesterday I visited my lovely and talented Wild Rose Press sistah Angela Hayes with a blog piece about reality. Well, it was my reality, really. I wrote a piece about the birth of my daughter, the accident I’d had on the day she was due and how I used that little piece of reality to drive the plot of my new book The Voices of Angels.
This got me to thinking…how much personal information is too much when you’re using it as a springboard to your fiction?
Case in point. Using one of my books again, First Impressions, I wrote a simply heartwrenching scene about the death of a much-loved family pet. It took me three days to write because every time I sat down to do it, I started bawling. My editor even wrote me after reading it to tell me she thought it might be too emotional for readers and might turn them off to reading the rest of the book. She thought I might want to temper it a little. I had to give that some serious, serious pondering and consideration time. In the end, I left the scene written as I had originally for two reasons. 1.) I knew that any reader who had a pet could and would sympathize with the feelings the heroine was experiencing from the death, and 2.) my own 18-year-old cat had recently died, so I knew every emotion I wrote was real and raw. Just this week I had someone I know who’s read the book tell me they were bawling their eyes out on a beach on vacation when they read that part. I asked how did they really feel about the scene. Did it turn them off? Make them not want to read ahead? And was told “I kept imagining my own cat dying. The scene was so real! I felt every emotion Clarissa did. I finished the book that night!”
Manna from heaven to a writer.
Now, I’d never use something grossly personal about myself or someone I know in my writing – too much potential embarrassment, not to mention lawsuits, could come of doing that. But there have been things have had happened in my life that I will slip into a scene or a plot. I think in some way doing this lends more credibility to the work. Truth in fiction stories always seem to grab me by the throat and not let go until I finish the book.
So, writer friends….how much is too much reality for your fiction? Truth in fiction…good, or bad? Let’s discuss….