Truth in Fiction

There are general themes to most fiction books—sex, greed, hate, love, sadness, happiness. These and other attributes get mixed together to form the basis of a fictionalized story. It could be a murder mystery, like most of my books, but basically it’s about human beings; their faults and their strengths—for me it’s usually emphasizing faults (after all it’s a murder mystery). My stories are made up; fiction not fact. For sure, I didn’t personally experience all of these murders first hand, just so I could chronicle them for you to read about. No, I created the characters, the plot and the conclusion from nothing but thin air. Well almost.

All of my books have an element of truth. This may be a character based on someone I knew, could be a location where I lived, or maybe an event that actually happen. Each book has a kernel of truth which grew into a story of complete fiction.

Some of those truths are small, insignificant little facts; some are very important and major to the story. But for me, each seems vital to being able to tell the story. In Four Corners War, my latest book, one of the main characters (Grimes) was based on someone I had met. The book takes place in Farmington, New Mexico, the place I had encountered this real person. The story is made-up but loosely based on things that did occur, or were suspected.

There was a scene in Four Corners War where Grimes’s girlfriend shoots at him with her pistol while he’s in a swimming pool, causing him to swim back and forth as she shot just ahead of him; like it was a strange, deadly arcade game. That actually happened; or at least the real person told the story that it happened. He was a bizarre man but I don’t think he would have made that up. There was also a scene in his airplane where he demonstrates a hard landing like on an aircraft carrier while landing in Albuquerque—I know that actually happened; because I was in the plane– silently screaming.

The Muckraker series of three books I co-authored with Stanley Nelson were based on actual events–a newspaper war in Oklahoma City in the 1960s. In the story a key character, Albright, was inspired by a real person I knew. He was a political columnist for one of the actual newspapers described in the books. At the time, I owned a printing business (yes, one of many businesses I have owned) when I met the Albright character. And, just as occurred in the fictional story, he talked me into publishing a political gossip rag for him, at no cost. Why did I do that? It was a stupid business decision (one of many) but Albright was an amazingly talented and brilliant man who fought each day of his life against corruption and lies—he was a truth teller; and the world needs every truth teller it can get. That sounds like a noble reason on my part; but the truth is probably I just did it on a lark, and had trouble getting rid of him once it started. But he sure was entertaining and I still think he was brilliant.

All of my books occur in places where I have been or lived, and each location has special memories.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy was the story of two rather ordinary and not so happy guys trying to solve their life issues and fix their money problems. The story began and ended in Oklahoma City, where I was born and lived for a big chunk of my life. Not an exotic location but it had its own uniqueness. The characters were based on people I had known and maybe ever so slightly, myself. The idea of the backstory about a bootlegger was based on a childhood memory when the kids in my neighborhood would talk about the bootlegger who live on the next block over. For one summer it was the major excitement for us to know that there was a bootlegger right in our neighborhood. I remember wondering what it actually meant to be a bootlegger (I was very young). This was kid gossip about something forbidden, and it was very enticing.

Vincent Malone and Ray Pacheco do not represent anyone I have ever met. However, those series do take place in locations that I know well. Las Cruces, Truth or Consequences, Cloudcroft, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Farmington, Durango, El Paso and Denver. Each book, hopefully, captures some of the charm and uniqueness of these locations. While my books are definitely character driven with a strong emphasis on dialogue; the locations provide a backdrop of authenticity that I believe adds to each book.

Lots of stuff floating around the internet about how to write a book. Seven steps to a successful book. Step by Step process in creating your first book. Most of these will mention creating an outline, developing character details, brainstorming story ideas, create your ideal work environment—none of that has much to do with writing a story; a fiction book—at least not for me. At the core of every one of my books is some personal experience I had. I will take that experience and stretch it, mold it, exaggerate it, throw it against the wall and finally, decide on what I want to write. Not very scientific or even akin to common sense, but it works for me.

Incorporating something familiar, whether a person or a location, can be a good way to add yourself to the story. My best work, I believe, comes from these personal connections. It gives the story a sense of truth—even though it’s only fiction.

Thanks for being a reader!

Published by

tedcliftonbooks

Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series. Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops. His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times. The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives. Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice. Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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