December 9, 2019

Turn Real-Life Events into Stories

By Staci Mauney

As writers, we’re often asked how we come up with story ideas. Whether I’m writing a devotional or a fictional short story, I’ve learned that drawing from real life provides some of the best inspiration. 

We can use the events from our lives to create stories that encourage, motivate, teach, or entertain others. While someone who reads your story may not have had the exact same experiences, she can relate to the emotions you felt and the lessons you learned.

Here are five ways to turn real-life events into stories.
1. Start with the Truth
Remember that the truth is often stranger than fiction. Use the truth as a foundation for your story, but change the facts. Connect with the reader by providing an emotional experience. Both fiction and nonfiction appeal to readers when they see parts of themselves in the characters and settings.
2. Determine the Heart of the Matter
Find the heart of the story: your theme. Theme provides the foundation for your story and helps readers connect to your characters’ internal journey. Determine the theme before you begin writing, if possible. This way, you can develop your story around that theme. Don’t worry if the theme doesn’t reveal itself until you’ve completed several drafts. Focus on the story, and the theme will emerge.
3. Create Memorable Characters
Real people need to be tweaked to become interesting characters. Create a fictional character by combining multiple traits from people you know into one character. Also, limit the number of characters you include to make it less confusing for your reader.
When fictionalizing real people, you may be concerned about privacy. Ask permission when possible. Change names, including initials, and change other pertinent details, such as looks, age, and abilities. Give the character different qualities from the real person so that the character only vaguely resembles the person on which he’s based.
4. Develop Your Setting
Setting consists of the time, place, and mood of the character’s world. Most writers don’t think about world-building unless they’re fantasy writers. But writers of every genre, even nonfiction writers, should spend some time on this. To build a world for your characters, you can use a real place, or you can fictionalize the town (or city or country) while including a few general, recognizable locations.
5. Use Third Person Limited POV
When writing a fictional story about your life, it will be tempting to use first person since it happened to you. But you’re too close to the story, and writing in third person limited point of view will allow you to have some distance.

We share our experiences through storytelling. As with any story, one based on real life needs to connect with readers. It seems as if it should be easy, but there’s more to it than simply recounting an experience. Readers want to feel joy and heartache alongside your characters. Determine the story you want to tell, and then go write it.
Staci Mauney is a freelance writer and editor and indie author from Oklahoma. She is the co-owner of Prestige Prose, a freelance writing and editing company found at As an author, she has written four devotionals in the Echoes of Joy series, where her Yorkshire terrier, Lilly, is the main character.She volunteers for a variety of organizations in her local community and is a member and past president of the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. (OWFI). Author Website:
Social Media: -Facebook: @StaciMauneyAuthor  Twitter: @SMauneyAuthor  Instagram: @sdmauney 

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