September 25, 2011

Reality and Fiction…Blurring the Lines

It’s tough to make up stories that other people want to read. There’s a lot of thinking and imagining, researching and studying, and writing, writing, writing to do. So, hey—why not just pluck a storyline out of the newspaper or local television news broadcast? After all, news stories include ready-made plots and characters. They’re intriguing. People follow them. Why not borrow the most interesting details and turn them into a ‘made-up’ story?

While using real storylines from the news might seem a simple way to develop a fiction plot, writers must take care when blending real current events with fiction. Too much detail can land a writer in hot water. After all, fiction writers don’t want to expose real people to real harm through their stories. True crime writers might want to take such risks.

But in fiction, it’s better to choose only an element or two from life and then blur the lines between reality and fiction. Changes in location, names, even resolution are the simplest to make. The story should simulate real events, but on a limited basis. Then, with hard work, imagination and a bit of luck, the story can become even more exciting than what first grabbed the writer’s attention. And it will belong to the writer.

For my latest novel, Border Heat, I hope I’ve managed to do all of that in a way that will catch the attention of readers. The story takes place in a wildlife management area located in deep West Texas. WMAs do exist, but the Pinyon Plateau in Border Heat is imaginary. By using an imaginary site, I was able to make up access points, landmark features and other elements to suit the story. The plot involves two major news elements: drug runners that bring their goods across the Texas/Mexico border and an out of control wildfire that devours precious land and threatens lives. Both elements are highly visible in the daily news—particularly now—but I took only the basic threat of each, weaving them into my own imaginary story.

Then I assembled a group of characters about whom I hope readers will care. Game Warden Shannon Walker and Secret Service Agent Tucker Daye share a history that has left each of them emotionally hurt and yet driven to succeed in their separate lives. But they remain linked together by Shannon’s niece, Chloe—who happens to be the daughter of the President of the United States—and a past fire that killed Chloe’s mother while she was under Tucker’s protection.

Toss in the approaching wildfire that cuts them off from safety, trapping them with murderous drug runners who pursue them for nefarious reasons, and I believe I’ve created a compelling action/thriller that is based on real occurrences without ‘being’ real. I hope that Border Heat will pull in readers and keep them turning pages as they, too, make an escape…across the blurred lines between reality and fiction.

Border Heat is available in various ebook formats at, and
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Check back on Wednesday for my Wednesdsay Chow recipe - Border Heat Chili.


marybelle said...

Traces of reality within a story make it more solid I always feel - multidimensional. I can understand what you mean about taking care though.

Celia Yeary said...

Hi, Teri! Haven't seen you in a while.
I completely understand your premise of blurring the lines--I call it poetic license. While I could never make up such a fantastic plot as you did, I have used regional places in Texas and created an entirely new setting.
In fact, I do it a lot since all my stories--historical or contemporary--are set in Texas,and I make sure the reader knows that.

I've even taken poetic license when I write childhod anecdotal stories--based on my own experiences. I've had readers say, Oh, you had such an interesting childhood! No, I had a very ordinary one, but I can take any little thing I recall and make a story out of it-much to the chagrin of those close to me who say, "Oh, that did not happen that way!" So what? I ask.
I wish you well with this exciting novel, and let me just say, you have what I call a "killer title!"

TessStJohn said...

Interesting...maybe I should watch the news...It's just so depressing!

I have Teri's new book and can't wait to read it!!! I've read some of her books and she has such a lovely voice!

Teri Thackston said...

Thanks, ladies!