Friday, August 1, 2014

Adding real life incidents in our stories

This topic has been pecking my mind from quite some time. I am constantly thinking about it. Would it be right to add a real life incident into our stories? 

Would that make our story more realistic or would that be sensationalizing a delicate issue. Last month, a sexual assault on a 6 year old girl in her school in Bangalore sent shock waves all across the city. It led to protests, petitions and also a bandh yesterday.

What happened to that small girl was not only horrifying but tragic and traumatic as well. My heart bleeds for what she and her parents must have gone through. It’s like someone has snatched the little girl’s happy childhood and changed it with trauma and nightmare.

This morning due to rains I could not go for my usual morning walk. While lying in bed my mind frequently went to that girl. And suddenly a shiny new idea dropped heavily into my mind. The idea gripped me tightly while I was doing my workout. The shiny new idea involved a story about that girl. Even while I am writing this blog post my mind is throwing up several scenes.

I am wondering whether my working on this new idea would be cruel, I mean would it be me capitalizing on an incident or trying to sensationalize an issue. I know for certain that I would handle the topic/story very, very sensitively. There would be no frivolousness in it. But, it has me still worried. This is the first time a real life incident has generated a story idea in my mind.

What is your take on my predicament? Do think I should atleast outline the story and see where it takes me? Or should I just dismiss it off from my mind? What would you do in my place?


  1. If I have such a dilemma, I will wait. If the idea holds on to me after a couple of weeks/months, I will use it.

    Reg. the topic, I don't think there is any topic that should not be explored per se. It's the way it is handled, that makes all the difference. Vidya Balan's Dirty Picture is a good example.

    Destination Infinity

  2. Some real life incidents are quite traumatic, or horrific but these days people don't shy of capitalizing even on these!Unfortunately only bad news makes waves:( I do not favor this!

  3. Perhaps you should take that idea and put a spin on it so it's not completely this girl's story who may not want it written. If it's a fiction story you're writing, I think it'd be best to not make it identical to this girl's situation. But that's just my opinion.

  4. I think taking the idea of it and making it something different would work.

  5. Real life incidents, even the horrible ones like this, have value. Look at the number of books for children now available about being adopted, being handicapped, being mixed race, losing a parent, etc.

  6. I would write the story. You may never publish it, or not for a long time. Sadly, this is not the first little girl to be raped. So, it could apply to any little girl. The question is: Will it traumatize you to write it? Can you handle it?

  7. First off, you're a the entire world is your canvas. Secondly, remember that even in a fictionalization you can incorporate very real-life events. I find this more effective and more ethical, since it neither involves the actual person's identity/story, but also by fictionalizing it everyone can better directly identify with the character (in otherwords themselves). Does that make any sense? :)

  8. My CP, Kate - the one who just got an agent - almost always uses headlines to inspire her stories. I say go for it if it's an idea that really inspires you. If you're passionate about the subject, it will come through in the writing.

  9. Rajesh @ Destination Infinity, I agree with you on the waiting part. I am going to see whether the idea is still strong after a few days or has fizzled away.

    Rahul, this incident was horrific, it was a rude jolt to all the Bangaloreans.

    Natalie, I am in sync with you. I have to definitely give it a new spin and ensure that it comes across as a completely fictionalized work with no resemblance to any incident or person.

    Alex, yes, taking the idea and making it different will be a great idea.

    Wendy, I agree that with a lot of brainstorming and outlining I can make this book beneficial for kids and their parents.

    Richard, I must mention that the very thought of tackling this is making me feel bad and sad. It would definitely be traumatic for me.

    Mark, your suggestion makes perfect sense. I agree that the world is a canvas for us writers. Its up to us to weave the real life incidents effectively into our stories.

    Lexa, your CP, Kate has an interesting way to generate story ideas. I must give it a try.

  10. What a terribly sad story, I'm sure it would be hard to write about but many stories are based on real life incidents in some way.

  11. Dear Rachna:
    Please go ahead and write that story that is begging to be written!
    We need daring writers.
    Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, said that fiction sheds light on reality. I agree with her. Fiction is about reality.

  12. Here's my take on it: I agree with Julia that you should write the story that's begging to be told. But not literally, because that's a reporter's work. There's an underlying truth here, nagging at you, thrown up by reading about this tragedy. A writing teacher once told me that to get to the universal truth of the story, it's often necessary to abandon the literal facts. So . . . write it as it comes out, while it's fresh in your heart, fictionalizing names and dates, maybe even the age by one year; then set it aside and come back and read through it purely as a work of fiction, looking for what holds the deeper story back, what will bring out the universal story. As Richard said, this is not the first little girl to be raped, and a victim later reading this story may find it healing. Those who haven't had such a horrific experience may turn a different eye on adults who seem to ruin their lives due to traumatic experiences they've locked inside. When you finally write the story, what do you want the reader to carry away?

  13. Ma'am I am too young to make suggestions but I think you should definitely carry forward your idea. You might end up writing things worth spreading. Good Luck !

  14. Good topic Rachna.

    I like Natalie's suggestion--based on truth, but with your own spin. In the States, authors can run into civil litigation issues when stories depict real people and they have not been very careful.

  15. I think you should let the ideas simmer for a while... and when you feel the time is right, then you should write the story.
    Whether you publish it or not? Well, only you can decide.
    Though I think that if and when you do, you will be ready for it.

  16. I think that any way in which is you can write this story that helps this little girl and other little girls is a good thing. Your writing this might bring attention to it in a way that inspires change and action in others, you might change the consciousness of the public. That is what I would hope if you were to write a story based on such an incident in real life.

    Good luck.