Young Writers Course
Lesson 1: Ingredients of a True Story
Welcome to the world of writing true stories! There’s good news and bad news.
Good news: True stories can make a huge impact on readers.
Bad news: True stories can be harder to write than made-up (fiction) stories.
But it’s worth it, because there’s power in a well-written true story. Guide’s Young Writers Certification Course is a toolbox to help you write great true stories.
So, What Exactly Does “True” Mean?
While nobody can remember every last detail about something that once happened, here’s a definition to keep in mind:
A true story tells about something that really happened and can be backed up by someone else.
Now, that definition doesn’t mean writing about brushing your teeth last night will make a gripping story. Sure, your mom can back it up, but who cares? You want to write a story that someone actually wants to read. To help you do that, here are a few things you need to know.
What’s Generally OK for True Stories
Created dialogue (people talking) that is needed to accurately show relationships and situations, and that helps to keep the story moving smoothly
Important elements such as weather conditions, geographical description, cultural and transportation references, etc.) that help the reader to clearly picture the story in his or her mind.
In other words, don’t make stuff up. Use your good judgment. Nobody wants to read a dull story, but they do need to trust that what they’re reading happened pretty much as written. Get as many facts as you can and go from there.
What’s Generally NOT OK for True Stories
A made-up story line or unnecessary made-up stuff. Again, nobody can remember every last detail of something that happened, so sometimes you’ll have to use good judgment about including what people likely said or did. But the more facts the better. This will help to avoid mistrust (“Why did you say I owned a pit-bull, you dolt?”) and other complications with real-life characters and readers.
A made-up character. Especially for this course, choose a story line where you have the facts about who was involved.
Important elements of setting that can’t be backed up as being part of the real-life story. For example, let’s say you choose to write a historical story. You decide to include a staircase, a springhouse, and a rifle. Unless you were there, which is pretty unlikely unless you are a time-traveler, you just don’t know what the place looked like. Whether a historical story or a story from today, try to base your story on what you actually know about the setting from your research.
Talking objects or animals. Winnie the Pooh is cool, but that’s a whole different story. If you want to earn your true story writing certificate, leave the talking critters for another time.
OK, hopefully you get the main idea about what makes up a true story. Just to be sure, take the quiz.