On True Events and Fiction Or How I Was Bitten By a Monkey

I’ve been thinking about how true events mix and meld into fiction, forming something that’s both true and not true at the same time.

While nonfiction can be added to fiction, the reverse can’t be done. I was a reporter for a while and still freelance for feature articles. Fiction was my first love but I try not to let it sneak into any articles. As anyone who has ever seen the movie “Shattered Glass” knows, you can get into trouble that way. The movie also shows how fiction can make the facts a lot more interesting.

There is much more freedom in writing fiction. I love to get out and interview people for feature articles but whenever the time comes to sit down and write, the writing can feel constricted to facts and quotes. I’d rather let my imagination take over and drift into fiction.

Then just when I think I’m finally writing fiction, true events end up seeping in. In the short story that was recently posted here, the international incident on the beach did happen pretty much as described with maybe a few embellishments that hopefully helped to make it funnier. In real life, there was also a monkey on a leash that people liked to have their pictures taken with. That monkey bit me, which was also funny, but I couldn’t figure out a way to work the monkey bite into the story. It was just a little bite on the finger, but the lifeguard still gave me some antiseptic while calling monkeys, “little thieves who jump out of the trees to steal people’s sunglasses.”

Even as these things were happening, the idea to turn it all into a short story didn’t come up until I started thinking more about mixtures – from drinks to nationalities or cultures. There are lots of references to mixtures in the story, so I guess it makes sense that the story itself is a strange mixture of fact and fiction.

What have been your experiences with writing fiction? Is it always truly fiction or does the truth seep in somehow?