Mark Twain’s words “the truth is stranger than fiction” have become a cliché because they are accurate. As fiction writers, we get to experience this in real time: the first reader or editor comments, “that just wasn’t believable”; yet you had stolen it from a real life experience. This played out for me when I read a recent interview. It quickly summarised the interviewee’s real life family situation thus:
Fleet’s father faked his own suicide, married again, had another family, was discovered by Fleet’s mother, returned to Fleet’s family, then abandoned them again.
My first thought (after “Yikes!”) was: how would you fictionalise that? No one would believe it.
Still, if we look back to many “far fetched” thriller stories, the psychopathic behaviors and unbelievable plot turns are based on criminal court cases. The sad truth is, if you can imagine something, chances are it has happened. It doesn’t mean the reader will suspend their disbelief.
So, how do we take the reader along? I think it comes back to the emotional journey of the reader. Draw them into the world of the characters and make the characters’ actions and behavior believable for that character and a reader will believe.
Do you have examples of truth stranger than fiction that you have included in your writing?