Thursday, July 7, 2011

Switching From Nonfiction to Fiction

Jane Kirkpatrick sent these salt and pepper shakers to me. They arrived yesterday. Aren't they a hoot? Jane has been a special encourager to me in writing my book. And the first person I turned to when I seriously considered changing the genre of my book. I know I can trust Jane's advice. I have struggled for three years attempting to write a creative nonfiction book with Ernest Christison as the main character. When I finished the rough draft, I felt like I had two books - one nonfiction and one fiction. It was disjointed; it had too many holes that didn't fit into literary nonfiction and I had too many questions to make a judgement for nonfiction.

Ernest's story wouldn't let me go, but another story began to overpower his story. Mary Watkins, a Quaker schoolteacher from Ohio takes on the cattlemen who hanged her husband. What a powerful story! I wrote a part of Mary's story as a short story a couple of years ago and started a novel about Mary last November during NaNoWriMo (write a novel in a month). As I struggled with how to fix the nonfiction book, I opened up the file of the novel I had started. Guess what? It was good. And I seriously considered what the book would look like as fiction. After talking with Jane, I had no qualms about putting the creative nonfiction behind me and writing a historical fiction novel with Mary Watkins as the protagonist. Ernest will also be a main character, so his story will be told, too. The story is true, the events are true and the dialogue and additional scenes will all point to the truth while adding depth to the characters.

Fiction is a new world to me. Now I am reading Writing Fiction For Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and using his Snowflake method for writing a book. I am also reading books on characters and making them come alive. The only thing I don't have to learn about is the plot, that's already set!

P.S. If you haven't read any of Jane Kirkpatrick's books, run to the nearest bookstore or library! Jane writes historical fiction based on real women's lives. Her latest book is A Daughter's Walk based on the true story of a mother and daughter walking across the country in 1896. For more information, visit her website