Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Use of Truth in Fiction



The photo above, taken from the newspaper, is not as sharp as I'd like, but I think it's enough for you to see the record-sized python caught in the Florida Everglades. The female python was 18 feet long, weighed 215 pounds, and had 122 eggs. This python is believed to be one of "founder" pythons that started the plague of pythons that is damaging South Florida's native wildlife.

For those unfamiliar with the story . . . many, many years ago, residents of South Florida, Miami in particular, needed a way to get rid of pet pythons that had grown too big for comfort. The solution? Dump them in the Everglades. The python population multiplied, finally becoming such a problem that the state inaugurated "The Great Python Hunt" once a year. It has now pretty much transitioned from a "macho" snake-hunt challenge to a task for professional hunters (as one can imagine from the size of the snake above.) And yes, it pays well, though only to brave and fearless.

FYI, although the above capture was in December 2021, the photo didn't make it to the Orlando Sentinel until this week. Guess pythons have become ho-hum news here in Florida.


Below, the "children" of my son and his wife on a truly creative Father's Day T-shirt.


The Use of Truth in Fiction

 "Write What You Know" - advice given to almost every beginning author, and although I often scoff at "rules," this is a really good one to remember. Drawing on personal experience - or the latest headlines from the news - can add drama you might never have thought of on your own. True details also add a strong touch of reality to the words you're crafting into a tale of Fiction.

Before beginning today's blog, I took a long look at my printed inventory of Blair's books. There are a lot of them, but how many of those could I use to illustrate today's topic?

I immediately ruled out the Historicals. Yes, I did enormous amounts of research; I really tried to get my facts straight in every last one, but today I want to concentrate on using personal experience and knowledge in Fiction. I also rejected my SciFi novels. As much as we like to envision the future through the eyes of Star Trek, Star Wars, the Galaxy Quest movies, or the words of SciFi's greatest authors, all varieties of futuristic fiction are born primarily from our imaginations.

So . . .  

Contemporary Fiction—Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense/Thrillers & Mystery

Let's take a look . . .

As I recall, my first Contemporary Romance was published by Kensington in August 2000.* Although I'd been living in Florida for years, Cape Cod (MA) was still vivid in my mind. I lived there for a year when I was four, and my family vacationed there every year after for more than thirty years. I knew the Outer Cape (Orleans, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown) almost as well as a native. And I put every ounce of my love for Cape Cod into that Kensington Romance. I also used a nod to the many years I lived in the New Haven (CT) and Boston areas, making those the home bases of my hero and heroine, and attempting to be true to the cultural background of both New England cities.

All this for a skinny little paperback that could be read in a day. But, believe me, I'm convinced "Write What You Know" was of immense help in getting my first print book published.

*The Kensingon paperback was published under the perfectly awful title of He Said, She Said. When I got my rights back, I went indie with the original title, Love At Your Own Risk, which Kensington's Marketing Department rejected, saying they didn't like "Risk" in the title!


My next Contemporary, the Romantic Suspense Shadowed Paradise, still takes the prize for how much of myself I put into it—not just the scenic background but an almost endless series of personal experiences and happenings in the area, plus a few headlines from greater Florida at that time. Most important to the book was the cultural shock I experienced when I moved from the Yale community in Connecticut to a quiet Old Florida town turned resort/retirement community. There is no way I could have created that heroine without giving her many of my own emotions and experiences at the time. The book's half-Russian hero came out of my many years of interest in Russia and my 10,000-miles of travel through the old Soviet Union. 

The washed-out bridge in Shadowed Paradise was real—I drove the mile or so from my house, saw it for myself. The serial killer was real, as was the threat to real estate agents. I was sitting Open Houses at the time, and I recall the warnings. The vast cattle ranch was real. (Florida raises more cattle than any state east of the Mississippi.) Also real, all those roads to nowhere. The grand house in the final scene was real. The restaurant/tavern along the jungle river was also real, one of my all-time favorite places. The airplane flying on and on, its pilot dead, until it crashed into the ocean, came out of Florida headlines at the time.

In Paradise Burning, a sequel to Shadowed Paradise, I also used contemporary headlines about human trafficking in Florida. In an odd twist, at the end of the book I conjured a huge wildfire that burned thousands of acres. And by the time the book was published, my tale had come true, burning acres and acres of pristine land that would take years to recover.

In Death by Marriage, a mystery, I used my three years' experience running a costume-rental business (for which I created about 75 percent of the costumes). In The Art of Evil, a mystery set in Sarasota, I used my years of experience as a volunteer tram driver at the John & Mable Ringling Museum (John Ringling, as in Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey). And in Orange Blossoms and Mayhem, more Suspense than Mystery, I not only used my experiences in that very special Gulf Coast area where I once felt like a fish out of water, but my spectacular Peruvian experiences in Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. And in Florida Knight, a book that's closer to Romance than Mystery (with more than a touch of the Medieval thrown in for good measure), I used my many years as a member of the Florida branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism (to which I donated my many costumes when I moved to Orlando in 2007. Yes, they have a chapter in the Orlando area, but I decided my camping days were over.)

After moving to Orlando, I used my experience of living in "Theme Park Land" to write Florida Wild. And in Limbo Man, a Suspense/Thriller, I used the darker issues of living on the edge of an old bombing range (where a child died and houses were constructed over live ordinance).* I also used the Thimble Islands, just off-shore from our old house in Branford (CT), where we lived for twenty years before moving to Florida. And again, my trip to the Soviet Union, which included a trip to Lake Baikal and Bratsk in Siberia. 

*For Orlando area residents, I'm talking about the old WWII Pine Castle Bombing Range, south and east of what is now Orlando International Airport. I received all the notices about the long-neglected clean-up because my house in East Orlando was on the outer fringes of the range.

 In short, you can call upon almost anything

 in your own experience to create a better book.

Warning:  be careful about using recognizably real people. You can, for example, give your villain a characteristic or two of the Person You Hate Most, but using a complete caricature of a real person, good or bad, could end up alienating someone who might actually have bought your book! (Let alone being downright rude.) 

There are many other instances I could mention, but I'm sure you get the idea: there's nothing like the truth to add drama and authenticity to your fiction. As the old saying goes, "Truth is stranger than Fiction," and I guarantee it can really perk up a book.

~ * ~

Below, a list of Blair's Contemporary novels:

Love At Your Own Risk (Cape Cod)
Florida Knight*
Romantic Suspense
Shadowed Paradise*
Paradise Burning*
Florida Wild (Orlando)
Suspense w/International Settings
Orange Blossoms & Mayhem*
Limbo Man
Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart
The Art of Evil (Sarasota)
Death by Marriage*

*Set (or partially set) in Golden Beach, the fictional name for the most delightful small town on Florida's Gulf Coast

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page  click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


1 comment:

  1. I love recognizing familiar places/events in books, at least if they are accurate in their portrayals.

    J took me years to get over the culture shock upon moving to Florida -- and Central Florida is a LOT more like the Northeast than the rest of the state. Now I sometimes feel it in reverse.