We often think of nonfiction books as works of journalism or academic research, or a narrative recounting of events. Nonfiction storytelling can be as creative as fiction storytelling with one important twist; the events, places and people are real. Thus the term, Real Fiction.
This cross between fictional storytelling and nonfiction is also known as creative nonfiction, or as it often referred to in slang terms, faction. This combining of fiction and factual information takes the story to an entirely new level and allows the writer to engage the reader more fully.
Real fiction must remain true to its nonfiction core. That means all information about places, people, technical details, and events must be researched to be as accurate as possible. Readers expecting to read a good quality work of nonfiction do not expect to find it plagued by errors that contradict reality.
However, the story must engage the reader, like any good work of fiction. This means developing a good storyline with facts woven in, of course. It also means well-developed characters, lots of conflict, problem solving, and all the classic elements of a good story. This engages the reader in a great tale while learning the real facts of the people and places involved.
Being diligent with the facts does not mean the writer cannot take some creative license with the story. As long as the beginning of each scene, or sub-plot, or sequence of events, is based on actual facts, the writer may extrapolate or morph them into any new set of circumstances he or she chooses. This is where the blurring of fiction and nonfiction occurs.
Many nonfiction writers focus on their own experiences and knowledge for the source of their work. Real fiction can include such works, like memoirs or other essays about personal experience. That can also include any other material produced from interviews with interesting people, or research conducted on a particular subject.
The writing style may vary, and is not restricted to a narrative or formal reporting approach. The writer can choose to write about the characters in the first person, in the present tense, or past tense. One creative way of telling a story about factual events is to use a journalistic style, as though a reporter was guiding the reader through the journey of the story, with creative flashbacks bringing the reader into the real-time of the events.
Many people have interesting stories to tell from their own experiences, experiences of others in their family, or through work or research they have conducted over the years. Often times, when asked why they don’t write the story, the response is something like, “Nah, it’s not that exciting. No one would read it anyway.” Perhaps these individuals need to spark their creative energy by developing their story into real fiction and let the creative juices flow.