Sunday, April 22, 2012

Helen Landalf – Keeping it Real: Bringing Authenticity to Fiction

Helen Landalf (Flyaway, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) identified three elements of authenticity in fiction and illustrated each with examples from regional author’s published books.

“Most of us can just feel when a story is authentic – it’s like a punch in the gut.”
“If a story feels authentic the reader has the reader firmly in the dream of the story.”

Elements of authenticity
Factual accuracy – dates, locations, technical details
Sensory Realism – specific sensory details that evoke experience for readers.
Emotional Truth – enables readers to feel story’s emotions on a gut level.

Helen walked us through methods of factual research, as well as approaches to accessing emotional truths from our own lives and using them in the creation of our characters. She walked us through several writing exercises that allowed us to think about and process authenticity in our own. She closed by asking the question: How authentic is authentic enough?

Her answers:
This is fiction, remember?
Don’t show off your research.
Let authenticity serve your story – don’t sacrifice your story to serve the truth.
“If we ground our stories in accurate facts and emotional experiences we can create stories that will be authentic and connect to the reader.”

The session was thoughtful and generous in spirit, reminded of the importance of getting both the facts and emotional details right, and gave the participants some takeaway tools of inquiry for use in their own writing.

(Notes by Tina Hoggatt)

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