Fictionalizing A Friend’s Tragedy: An Uncomfortable Conversation

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I wrote a novel that took a real scenario and imagined how it might have played out as fiction

I’m having a bit of a rough time with a quandary I find myself in as a novelist. Years ago a friend’s brother-in-law took his own life in a very difficult way, one that made a tragedy even worse. I did not know him and his widow was only an acquaintance from years ago. But her sister is an ex of mine and an important person in my life.

It may never see the light of day

I decided to use the back story and anonymize it as much as possible. There were two primary reasons for this. First, to respect the families and friends of the deceased, and second, to show how this death was the result of a series of tragedies that left the wife (my character, not the actual person- this is fiction) exceptionally disconnected from the world. It made for a powerful story and challenged me as a writer far more than my earlier work. You cannot take on a serious subject like this without giving it your best.

Basing stories on actual events is a common writing scenario

It is a favorite activity of critics to look at stories that reflect actual events, utilizing them as frameworks for something different but similar. In fact there are reference books that collect all the possible plots, given common human experience. Perhaps the most common example example is Romeo and Juliet, the time-honored tragedy of lovers forbidden their love by circumstances beyond their control. Endless books and films have explored this plotline, which always ends badly. The idea of grieving as a journey to a new understanding of life fits these molds on a positive basis. The character has a situation where an event undoes their life and they either choose to unravel or grow past it. Or some combination.

Written by

Novelist, Tech Marketing Writer, Growth Consultant. I have been a professional writer for over 20 years- 8 non-fiction books and 1 novel, many articles, etc.

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