I heard a quote the other day stating that fiction is more “real” than non-fiction because, in writing fiction, it's easier to tell the truth.
Think about it. If you're writing non-fiction, you have to stick to the facts. There's no way a writer can go inside the mind of the subject and detail how decisions are made. Only actions and consequences are recorded. One can surmise, conjecture, and deliberate, but will never really know the truth.
Fiction writers, like myself, are allowed to creatively explore human nature. We drum up conflicts for our characters to figure out and overcome. We try to see how far we can push the people we create, and how far we can push the reader. We search our souls in order to make others search theirs. And, we do all of this in the context of a story that will engage and entertain readers.
When I write, I usually focus on something that's been bothering me. I once observed an extremely overweight man in a crowd and noticed other people averting their eyes. It occurred to me that obesity might be the best way to be underestimated. So, I created a unique detective, a sumo wrestler who makes a career change. In “Sayonara, Mr. Chips,” my character is ridiculed, ignored, and treated as if he is stupid. He turns all of these negative reactions to work in his favor. Of course, he solves the case. Not only is he observant, he understands the Japanese culture better than the police. And, I never once let him lose his dignity.
Another thing that bothered me was the way a friend in law enforcement was being treated as she aged. Instead of using the knowledge she'd built up over the years, responsibilities were taken away from her. She was being emotionally downsized. When I wrote the story “Baby Blue,” based on a Hanford murder case, I let her solve it. Then, while being praised in the story for what she considered just doing her job, she puts in retirement papers. I let my friend do in the story what she can't do in real life: leave the force on a high note.
The hardest writing of all is sketching out portraits of the people we love. The traits we want to explore in their personalities are the ones people would rather hide. Perfect people make boring characters. It's not only safer to fictionalize my friends, but they never seem to recognize themselves in my stories.
Romance writers try to make couples live happily ever after. Mystery writers tackle injustice and right the wrongs. Fantasy writers bring magic back to our jaded realities. Horror writers remind us things could be worse. Historical fiction gives us the past, sci-fi presents the future.
Is it what really happened? No. Non-fiction deals with life as it exists. Fiction writers probe the depths of mankind, to find out what makes us tick. We project our own hopes onto the pages we write and trust that our words will connect with a reader.
One person's fiction is another's truth.