|Photo taken by Claudia Del Balso|
One of my creative non-fiction short stories is based on my visit to Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West. My mentor told me to be careful with overdoing the dialogue to avoid crossing into fiction. I had to keep it true (even if I had paraphrased) to what was really said. He also advised me to go easy on the minutiae: you can incorporate facts and any research without overwhelming readers with boring details. When writing non-fiction, you can reword conversations or change names without altering the facts. This is what I am doing in my latest story set in Istanbul, hence the photo above.
When using facts, don’t forget that your readers have to find the material informative, yet entertaining.
You can also use your sources by including them in the form of dialogue, background description, or three-dimensional scenes.
The material doesn’t have to sound like a university research paper. Be wise on how you weave the facts into the story.
One important piece of advice: you have to be a credible author. Your readers will know if your facts are accurate even if your story is fiction. A perfect example of this, my short story “I Am a Woman,” is a complete figment of my imagination. The story is set in Africa and even though I’ve never been there the facts were definitely there. I did extensive research and I knew I had succeeded when one of my readers, who happened to be African, told me she was impressed with the accuracy of the details. She was convinced I had been there.
Remember, just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it can’t sound real. Doing research can inspire you to create the perfect story.