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How to Write a Story Based on Actual Events
Written by
She Writes
March 2019
Written by
She Writes
March 2019

This is a guest post by Heidi Daniele author of The House Children

It’s important to choose an event or topic that intrigues you. I’m referring to the kind of event that ignites your curiosity and compels you to seek out more of the details. The topic that turns you from being a casual observer into a detective investigating what happened and then thinking, “Wow, that would make a great book!”

The story will be there for you to write, but there are often barriers that prevent the story from being told exactly as it happened. Writing a novel that emerges from actual events requires the artful balance of truth and fiction, and a great deal of work. Detailed research, not creativity, is step one.


It’s important to become an expert on your subject. Your knowledge on the topic will become the foundation for your novel. Your expertise on the subject will come through in your writing and give you credibility.

The first step is finding documentation about the events. Looking for records, articles, books and any other written account of what happened can be laborious, but it is necessary. It’s important not to discard anything you find, regardless of how trivial it may seem. A small reference in an article could wind up being the spark that adds a new dimension to your story.

Location is central to almost every great novel. If you cannot visit the area, the Internet is a great tool for finding old and new maps and pictures of the area you are writing about. Weather reports are another great resource that can be found online. An author needs to create an authentic image of the location and time period of the story. Providing details about odor, texture, color, sound and climate helps to create the atmosphere you want for your reader.

Talking to people and reading newspapers from where and when you are writing about is also invaluable. Knowing alternative views about an event allows a writer to present a broader picture with different perspectives. A writer can also incorporate influences from the local culture, demographics, and religious views surrounding the event. Learning a variety of perspectives allows the writer to craft the story in an authentic and interesting way.


Once the author is satisfied with the data accumulated, a decision must be made. Where will the boundary between reality and fiction be set?

When I sat down to write The House Children, I knew a boundary would have to be respected - one of privacy. The women who shared their stories with me wanted to remain anonymous. In some ways that limited what I could write, but it gave me the freedom to use my creativity. This blend of fact and fiction is really the art writing an engaging story based on actual events.

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