Paula Sheridan adapted a true story to fiction for Finding Penrose.png

When a writer sets out to adapt a true story into a work of fiction, they face a unique set of challenges that arise from the delicate balance between fact and creative liberty.

The Blurred Lines

Another Challenge is Navigating the Blurred Lines: Digging and delving into old documents, letters and maps to find the story elements that resonate the most.

Often, writers must grapple with the expectations and preconceptions readers bring to a story that is "based on true events." Readers may approach the work with a heightened scrutiny, questioning which elements are factual and which are invented. This can put additional pressure on the writer to strike a balance between authenticity and creative licence, while also managing reader expectations and perceptions.

Despite these challenges, the act of adapting a true story into fiction also presents a unique opportunity for writers to explore the deeper truths and universal themes that underlie real-life events. By infusing the narrative with their own imagination and insight, writers can create a story that not only illuminates the specific experiences of the people involved, but also speaks to the broader human condition.

Ultimately, navigating the challenges of adapting a true story into fiction requires a combination of sensitivity, creativity, and a willingness to embrace the ambiguity that comes with blurring the lines between fact and imagination. By approaching the process with empathy, respect, and a commitment to emotional truth, writers can craft stories that honour the real-life experiences that inspired them while also creating something new and transformative.

The process of transforming real-life events and people into a narrative that is "inspired by" or "based on" a true story requires a careful navigation of the blurred lines between reality and imagination.

One of the primary challenges writers face in this process is determining which elements of the true story to keep, modify, or omit entirely. While certain key events and characters may form the backbone of the narrative, the writer must also make decisions about which details to alter or invent in service of the story's dramatic arc and themes. This can be a difficult balancing act, as the writer must weigh the importance of factual accuracy against the demands of crafting a compelling and emotionally resonant story.

Another significant challenge is the responsibility writers bear to the real people involved in the true story. When adapting the experiences of others, writers must be sensitive to the impact their portrayal may have on those individuals and their loved ones. This requires a deep empathy and respect for the people whose lives are being represented, as well as an awareness of the potential consequences of fictionalizing their stories.

I faced these challenges constantly when adapting Penrose's true life story from facts to fiction. Meet Penrose to find out more about this incredible true story.

Walking the Tightrope: Balancing Fact and Fiction in "Finding Penrose"

"Finding Penrose" isn't simply a biography; it's a narrative inspired by a remarkable life, a journey where the lines between fact and fiction sometimes blur. While historical accuracy is incredibly important, adapting a true story into a compelling narrative presents unique challenges.

  • The Balancing Act: As the writer crafting "Finding Penrose," my goal was to stay true to the essence of the Penrose's experiences while creating a story that resonates with readers.  Here's where the tightrope walk begins:
  • The Gaps in History: Historical records offer a glimpse into the past, but there are always gaps. Gaps that leave us wondering about motivations, inner thoughts, and the quiet moments in between documented events.  These spaces must be filled with creative licence, ensuring the narrative feels cohesive while acknowledging the limitations of historical knowledge. Otherwise, how does a writer proceed without all the knowledge or the person present to recount every detail?
  • The Tyranny of Detail:  While accuracy is crucial, getting bogged down in every minute detail can stifle the narrative flow.  Striking a balance requires discerning which details are essential to capture the spirit of the true story and which can be streamlined for a more engaging reading experience. I went through this time and again, wanting to include all the lovely memories my mom and I shared about Penrose, many of which I had never heard before. But all these smaller details aren't necessary the best fit for the story. I found this out soon enough!
  • The Prism of Perspective:  History is often seen through multiple lenses.  Reconstructing an event solely through documented records may present only a partial picture.  "Finding Penrose" incorporates different perspectives, drawing upon historical context and educated guesswork to create a more nuanced understanding of the story's events. Plus a lot of gut instinct into what would make this story stronger, what wouldn't and why. I had editors, proofreaders and publishers suggesting story developments that I couldn't stomach. I had to draw a line through those and move on with what instinctively felt right in my bones!

The Rewards of Inspiration

So, why did I venture into the world of "inspired by" narratives?  Because sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.  Real-life stories can possess a raw power and emotional depth that fiction alone may struggle to capture. By weaving factual details with creative storytelling, a writer can create a narrative that resonates with readers on multiple levels.

"Finding Penrose" isn't just about recounting events; it's about capturing the essence of a human experience. It's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, a story that reminds us that even the most obscured chapters in history deserve to be explored and understood. 

I invite you to embark on an unforgettable journey of discovery, where the lines between fact and fiction blur to unveil a story that will etch itself into your heart and mind. As you navigate the pages of this remarkable tale, you may find yourself shedding tears – tears of sorrow, tears of joy, and tears of sheer admiration for the indomitable human spirit.

But I make no apologies for the emotions this story may evoke, for it is a testament to the power of resilience and the unyielding strength of the human soul. This is a story that demands to be heard, a story that will echo in your thoughts long after you've turned the final page.

So, take a deep breath, open your heart, and let the extraordinary journey of 'Finding Penrose' begin!