Storytelling Techniques – Using Fact with Fiction

While fictional stories are just that – fictitious – there’s one thing they rely on in order to help them convince the reader that the story feels real, and that is facts. Whether it’s thriller, crime, romance or a historical novel – facts make a difference to the overall enjoyment of a book. It lends to its realism.

Facts provide extra layers to your description and dialogue; the more descriptive layers you have, the better experience for the reader. That doesn’t mean you have top overload the story with every single fact you can find, but rather it’s down to the subtle snippets of information you weave into the story.  

We’re always told to ‘write what we know’ – so if you’re a photographer, you could use this in a story, or perhaps you are a nurse, so your medical background knowledge is very handy or maybe you’re a mechanic and you make your protagonist a’s all knowledge and skills you can and should use, but sometimes what we know isn’t always accurate, and often with a full length novel, there are so many things we need to know in order to give our stories true credence.

Everyone has specific knowledge and skills in certain areas, but that doesn’t extend to everything, so for example, if you’re writing a historical novel, you might have some knowledge about the 18th century, but what clothes does your character wear? What food does he eat?  What environment does he live in? How large was the village where he lived 1789? What does the architecture look like? The stuff you don’t know is always more than the stuff you do know.

You might use your medical knowledge and skills and write about a main character who is a doctor, but what if he or she finds him/herself trying to fix a broken down car? Or what if he has to help fly a plane? That’s the stuff we don’t always know, which is why it’s so important to check facts. Because even if we think we know, someone who reads your book might be an expert in that field, and they’ll pull you up on it.

There is always lots of stuff in our stories that we have to research – no matter how mundane or strange or obscure. It has to be thorough. Don’t just rely on the internet for information – read books, articles, science/research papers etc., or better still, speak to professionals – doctors, lawyers, engineers, historians and so on. Cross reference those facts.  Research may take months and you might not use any of it, but it’s something we all have to do, and it may help your story.

Remember, you don’t have to bombard your reader with wall to wall facts. You just need to make your story plausible with information that is pertinent to the story.

Including little factual details makes a story more interesting, more colourful and more enjoyable. It lends some authenticity to your writing. Write what you know by all means, but what you know must always be accurate, simply because it’s so easy to get facts wrong.

Facts compliment fiction. Use them wisely.


Popular posts from this blog

Chapter & Novel Lengths

What Makes a Story Dark?

Cadence in Writing