Poetic License or Tell the Truth?

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United States
September 7, 2016 9:12pm CST
Now that my book More Free Cash for College is written, and I’m building my “writer’s platform”, or sphere of influence, I’m busy writing for my blog. It’s called RoadtoFreeCollege.blogspot.com. (I’ve had fits over the last three weeks trying to get my domain name connected, so I can leave out the word BlogSpot. It seems to be impossible.) Meanwhile, I took one of the stories I wrote for the site, April in Paris, James, to my writers’ group. We routinely critique works that some of us bring to the meetings, make suggestions and give words of encouragement. They have been very helpful. But something keeps happening that nags at me. All of my writing is non-fiction. That means that any event I describe really happened. Each time, however, one or more of the other writers suggest changes to make the tales more riveting. In other words, they want me to change non-fiction into fiction. It rankles. Example from this week’s tale, several people wanted me to say that James, who danced with me in the Moulin Rouge, was awkward and stumbled around the dance floor. This wasn’t true. Although this was his first time dancing in his life, he did as well as any other “man” on the dance floor. Sure, it might be cute to say he stepped on my foot, but that would be a lie and disrespectful to him. He may have been only sixteen, and (slow) dancing for the first time in his life, but no one would have known this by looking. What do you think? Should I mangle the truth to make the “story” more interesting?
11 people like this
13 responses
@TheHorse (53004)
• Pleasant Hill, California
8 Sep 16
Good question. I think you can stay close to the truth and still make it interesting by your thoughts about what you experience, or how you present it.
6 people like this
• Laguna Woods, California
8 Sep 16
@TheHorse - I agree. I think that Elizabeth could stick with the truth, but make it interesting.
2 people like this
• United States
8 Sep 16
Most loved it the way it is, but a few wanted me to change things. Guess they don't know the definition of Non-fiction.
@JudyEv (101131)
• Bunbury, Australia
8 Sep 16
No, don't mangle the truth at all. I've taken a real life incident and turned it into fiction but that's totally different because you're just taking an idea or incident. But if I were James I'd be a bit disappointed at least if you wrote him up as awkward. Your writers may be very good but it's still just an opinion or suggestion they're giving but in this case I think they're wrong. And they don't have a personal stake in this either. They may feel differently if it was one of their students they'd danced with.
5 people like this
@JudyEv (101131)
• Bunbury, Australia
8 Sep 16
@ElizabethWallace If it starts sounding like fiction, the whole book will lose credibility. Just make it as interesting as you can. Just my opinion.
1 person likes this
• United States
9 Sep 16
@JudyEv I think if I add fiction to my website, I will lose all credibility. As it is now, I change the names of people (unless they are famous). That's enough.
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (101131)
• Bunbury, Australia
10 Sep 16
@ElizabethWallace I agree completely. Much the best way to go.
1 person likes this
@jaboUK (50778)
• United Kingdom
8 Sep 16
If you are writing it purely as entertainment I don't think it matters if you tweak it a bit, but if you are representing it as factual, you can't.
3 people like this
• United States
8 Sep 16
They are real tales, not fiction.
1 person likes this
@andriaperry (33378)
• Anniston, Alabama
8 Sep 16
No! I stay true. I be myself and I get the views. Just today I wrote an article for a site and I got 412 views and all of it was real! How I grow and cook eggplant! Who would have guessed that many people wanted to read that?! Another day was how to make a pizza got 111 views. I also wrote one about business and filing small claim suits that got 56 views in an hour. But if you feel you have to write a story, then do so but as far as I am concerned, just be you.
3 people like this
• United States
8 Sep 16
The site is to promote my upcoming non-fiction book. Everything on the site is non-fiction.
1 person likes this
@celticeagle (114511)
• Boise, Idaho
8 Sep 16
I wouldn't mangle the truth. I would say just what you said here. That he did as well as other "man" on the dance floor.
2 people like this
• United States
8 Sep 16
And that he did. This made it even more surprising when he told me he had never danced before in his life.
1 person likes this
@celticeagle (114511)
• Boise, Idaho
8 Sep 16
@ElizabethWallace .....He must have had a nack then.
1 person likes this
• United States
9 Sep 16
@celticeagle I think most people see how slow dancing is done, and could do it if they did not freak out.
1 person likes this
@ms1864 (7001)
• Bangalore, India
8 Sep 16
I don't think that is necessary, people don't buy books to read the same kinda story over and over. Your instinct feels right to me...i would suggest sticking to it. There is a audience for your style of writing too...
2 people like this
• United States
8 Sep 16
Thanks. I prefer writing non-fiction.
1 person likes this
@jstory07 (58080)
• Roseburg, Oregon
8 Sep 16
I think you should leave the stories the way they are.
2 people like this
• United States
8 Sep 16
Thanks for the thumbs up.
1 person likes this
@DeborahDiane (16243)
• Laguna Woods, California
8 Sep 16
@ElizabethWallace - Absolutely not! Do not lie when you tell non-fiction. Someday, James might read it ... and it can be a slippery slope. However, it is possible that you could be more descriptive of James, the dance, the other dancers, the music, etc. That could also make the story pop.
2 people like this
• United States
8 Sep 16
I was very descriptive in the telling. That was complimented by the other writers.
1 person likes this
@shivamani10 (10812)
• Hyderabad, India
8 Sep 16
It only speaks your appreciation and your nature of encouraging a new entrant.
2 people like this
@garymarsh6 (12182)
• United Kingdom
8 Sep 16
You could recount the time you did the can can although I dare say most of us these days it would be the "Can't can't"
1 person likes this
• United States
9 Sep 16
Ha Ha. The stories I include are about students, not me.
@Marty1 (26925)
• Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
8 Sep 16
@elizabethwallace I think you should leave then the way they happen. It can still be interesting! I am sure it is interesting!
1 person likes this
• United States
8 Sep 16
It is a wonderful, heartwarming story.
• Eugene, Oregon
8 Sep 16
If it is memoir or nonfiction, the truth is best, but for fiction there is no limit.
1 person likes this
• United States
8 Sep 16
These tales are not fiction. That's important, because my book isn't either.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (35766)
• Gainesville, Florida
13 Sep 16
I say stay true to the story, and not embellish or make things up.