Being imaginative with the truth

Isn’t it the job of a writer, partly, to lie?

I’m particularly drawn to writing about things with a basis in the real, whether they’re true-life stories, or situations or places.  Maybe it’s because they provide a framework on which to hang a story; or maybe because I can visualise them clearly the storytelling can come alive.

At some point, though – in every story – I have to make that leap into the realm of fiction.

With Sisterwives I was fascinated by Mormonism or, to be more precise, with the fundamentalist branch of it that espoused polygamy.  But I wanted the freedom to invent a place; in fact, a whole world, in which to explore the issue in a way which wasn’t culture-specific.  What if there was a place – nowhere immediately recognisable as the UK or the USA, but with elements of both – in which polygamy was expected, if not demanded?  What would it look like, this place?

So truth, in effect, became a launch pad for the imagination.  And I came up with a fictional space/place that forms the backdrop for the human drama.  Marah: a rural hamlet with a tiny population which, if I’ve done my job right, will come alive on the page and in the imagination of the reader.

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