Stories found and made: The difference between fact and fiction

shark-coverorientationWhere do stories come from? One of my favorite topics when speaking to readers is where writers get their ideas and how to turn ideas into stories.

An incident from your life is fact. It’s not a story, but just the start of one. If you stick to the facts, it’s creative nonfiction — fact given shape and voice. If you embroider it, reshape it, take it flying, then it’s fiction.

Before I wrote The Mermaid Game: A summer short story, I wrote Shark and Minnow: A summer memoir, a nonfiction essay about sisters at the beach, a boy next door, and a shark found in the shallows. This telling is as true as my faulty memory can make it.

Read it with The Mermaid Game to see where the story and essay converge and diverge — the blend between fact and fiction. Both involve children at the beach who make  startling discoveries in the waves, but the stories part ways. I like to think that both are the truth — Shark and Minnow is fact, but The Mermaid Game is the different kind of truth that can be found in fiction.

Nonfiction: Shark and Minnow: A summer memoir

Fiction: The Mermaid Game: A summer short story