This morning I finally finished up the story to submit for non-fiction. It was one I had written as part of my last year’s participation in a fiction project. In the final editing for this submission, I tweaked language, fleshed it out, and changed the tense.
Yes, that’s about all I had to do to turn fiction into an honest non-fiction.
With the ruckus caused by James Frey’s A Million Tiny Pieces being passed off as reality, I find this amusing. The thing is, Frey knew the difference between right and wrong, real and made-up, since he’d done the opposite of what I’ve just done. He claimed his novel was his personal experience, and only switched it to non-fiction, memoir, when he couldn’t shop it successfully. In the Oprah interview on yesterday (and continuing today, I believe) he claims he wasn’t thinking at all about genre, was inspired to just sit down and write something totally different, and didn’t have the writing class experience behind him to guide his decisions. I call him a big fat liar.
But was I just as guilty when calling true events fiction? I don’t think so. It’s not a mortal sin anyway; perhaps venial and ten Hail Marys will clear the air.
The thing is, ALL fiction is truth. All must have some basis in fact, all must be born from an egg before it flies away on its own. You can’t write about aliens coming in from Mars on their spaceships and landing on Earth if you don’t know about planets, space travel, and flight. Then you’re freed from the constrictions of knowledge to color them green.
UPDATE: A link to an article on the truth of personal experience in flash fiction at Flash Fiction Chronicles by Thomas Kearnes.