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Posted By Louise Pakeman

The more fiction I write and  the more years I get under my belt the more I realise the truth of this. Which brings me inevitably to another point about writing fiction. It must be about the only profession in this day and age where advancing years is an asset not a huge handicap.

It is because truth is indeed so often stranger (and less believable) than fiction that helps to make growing older an advantage. But…isn’t imagination the vital quality that makes a fiction writer?’ I don’t think so – I think it is the seasoning that turns real life experience into interesting and exciting reading with that vital ring of truth, the factor in every good novel that makes the reader keep turning the pages.

How often have you read a novel and felt This is ridiculous – it could never happen in real life and it has lost its hold on you? On the other hand when you recognise the reality of events, emotions, situations, then you can truly relate to the characters and eagerly read on.

The art in writing a believable novel is not to write events exactly as they happen with deadly accuracy, that is biography, autobiography or narrative non-fiction but to search your personal store  of  memories (and here is where the advantage of many years of living comes in) for incidents or events that stand out.

 In  everything that happens in life there are always choices. The way things go depends on the reaction and actions of the people involved. You can take the same situation and change the characters and events will move in a totally different way. As a fiction writer you are in the unique position of playing God. You create the situation, create characters with the personality traits you want them to have, put them together and pull the strings.

The best fiction is based on truth. We can look back down the years and see events that stand out, moments when we had a choice, now we have taken on the role of the Almighty we can shuffle things around, alter the main characters, change the dialogue,  make a different choice this time and see what happens. Here is where your imagination comes in, now you can say and do what you like when at the time you may have felt there was only one possible course to take.

From your rich storehouse of memories pick an incident, or maybe a phrase or a sentence you remember  someone said that has stuck in your memory, use this as the starting point and let your imagination do the rest as far as the action goes but it is remembering and recording your own feelings rather than imagining them that helps to make your fictitious characters ‘real’ and totally believable to your reader.

Posted By Louise Pakeman

My novel OUT OF TIME   opens with a quite bizarre incident that actually happened to me many years ago. The characters are changed, the actual words used slightly different although the underlying meaning is the same, and the rest of the story is pure fiction. An oxymoron if ever there was one, for as I have just said there is no such thing as ‘pure’ fiction as the characters and events that get into novels are a  pot-pourri of memories stored, pulled out and mixed together. Blended by imagination they stand on their own, unrecognisable as people or events from our life. But because they come from memory and experience they have the ring of truth.

When it comes to describing places then we need to decide whether we are going to create our own imaginary country or whether we are going to set our stories in real locations. Here I think the dictum Write about what you know is all important. If you make a mistake someone, somewhere will spot it. I can remember many years ago reading a novel in which a character took a train from Snow Hill Station in Birmingham (England) and arrived at Euston (London). Trains from Snow Hill went to Paddington. To get from Birmingham to Euston one took a train from New Street station. From that moment on the book lost its savour for me because this error had jerked me out of my immersion in the story, I lost my belief in it. A good editor should have picked this up.

I set one of my books in the riverside suburb of Barnes, London. I had lived there for a time and liked it very much and thought I knew it pretty well but my editor knew it better and pointed out to me that I had a street name wrong. That taught me to either have  a map handy or revert to the omnipotent role and create my own town.




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Louise Pakeman


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