Saturday, September 1, 2012

How Much Reality is Okay to put in Novels?

By Shiela Stewart

How much reality is okay to put in novels? I’ve asked myself that a lot. I worry about copyright laws or even stepping on someone’s toes.  Most authors tend to have some reality in their books, mostly taken from an experience in their life, a moment that just sticks out and begs to be written. But what about seeing something on TV and building on it? I hear it all the time. “I could write a better story than that piece of crap” Sometimes watching a movie, or a TV show can spur an idea. That’s fine, as long as you don’t copy it with only changing the names and places.

 But what about real life issues? There have been stories made on fictional people who either died or survived 911. Or a traveler that is late for their flight, misses it, then hears on the news it crashed. Lately I’ve heard rumours that a “Based on Actual Events” movie is in the early stages of planning surrounding the events that unfolded during the Colorado Massacre at the Batman premier. It doesn’t surprise me. It is a heart-breaking story and very compelling.

Now is it okay—say for instance me, a romance author—to make up a character that was in the shooting, who falls in love with a cop who saves her?  Or in less dramatic events, making up a character that is in the 
Olympics and write a story around him/her. How much reality is okay to use in creating a story? Do readers gobble up those types of stories because they know the situation?  Or are they turned off from it? It’s a fine line, I guess, to know what is and isn’t okay to write about. 

What do you think? Leave a comment and one random commenter will win one of Shiela's books from Decadent Publishing! Don't forget to leave your email address!


  1. Yep, it is a fine line and I suppose it depends on the reader's POV. I'm not keen on fictional stories relating to actual tragedies so whilst I might mention something like 9/11 or the London bombings I wouldn't write anything directly about them. It's fine that we're inspired by real events but I'd worry about bringing pain to those involved in them.

  2. There are some things that have happened in my own life that people don't believe actually happened to me and they think I make them up because they seem so unreal. I sometimes like to read about the average/boring bump into someone in random way and that one moment in time is all it takes for a love match to happen.
    To me it's all magical in the write authors hands.

    The actual first moment I met my husband I literally "ran" into him on a flight of stairs on a cruise ship. He was going down and I was going up. LOL

  3. I can't read/watch things about tragic events it just upsets me to much. I read/watch tv/movies to escape. That's just me.

  4. I prefer to have minimal "actual" events in my stories depending on what I am reading. I would most likely only read it if someone suggested it to me rather than me searching it out or seeing the blurb and reading it. I know, it's strange, but I like to be taken into a new world when reading. ;)
    Very interesting question though. Good luck.
    trb0917 at

  5. I like to read for escape purposes so I prefer not to have tragic events. I am on with some real events if they lend credibility to the story.
    bournmelissa at hotmail dot com

  6. I think that there us s time table that should be considered with tragic events. I see nothing wrong with writing a fictional story about it when its say a year or so after. I think that when stories are written so close to the event that people are just playing on the coat tails of the tragedy. and in that I find them unbelievable and irritating and I would not read them.

  7. Well color my face red. I thought today was the 1st (Sunday) so I totally missed that it was my day yesterday. Someone tell me how I lost a day? LOL

    I'm tossed on the idea. I agree that there should be a time frame for writing a story about a tragic event. I would hate to stir the memories of the tragedy right after the event. And you're right, when I read a book I want to escape reality. Probably why I write paranormal.

    Thank you everyone for popping in and sharing your view point. I've chosen a winner for any one of my Decadent titles.

    The winner is......Lorimeehan. Congrats!!