I originally shared this article with my Behind-the-Scenes Patreon followers on Jan 20, 2020.
I recently came across an essay by Perri Klass, a paediatrician who writes both fiction and non-fiction. She remarks: “Sometimes it feels like I can make the characters in my fiction more ‘real’ than the characters in my true stories; I can give them past histories and describe their physical appearances and let them speak for themselves, because I’m making it up.”
Having written both fiction and non-fiction myself, I can identify with her remarks. When I interview people for journalistic articles, I’m always careful to report the facts as I find them. If I notice a gap in a story I’m writing, I’m careful not to fill it with my own imagination. I may circle back and do a little more digging for additional facts, but if I can’t find them, then part of the story remains untold.
When I write fiction, however, I’m not bound by the same rules. And because of that, I can take my readers on a much deeper journey inside the world of my story and my characters.
When I’m writing non-fiction, I can’t describe what’s going on inside someone’s head unless that person reveals it to me. And even then…
I go on to explore the advantages and perils of writing fiction relative to non-fiction. And I end with a cheeky but inspiring quote from Bruce Springstein.
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