When I first began writing, I sometimes had difficulties fictionalizing periods of my life around which I wanted to build a story. Keeping it real while turning fact into fiction was not something I was familiar with, and hence became a stumbling block of sorts.
Fellow writers advised me to “let it rest,” that maybe I was still too close to the subject matter. The accompanying emotions were still too tender to attempt to write about, they said.
This was confusing: on one hand I was being encouraged to allow the emotional content to age, to cool. On the other, I was learning that to properly write an effective block of prose, I needed to capture the feelings while they were still fresh in my mind and hot in my experience.
As time passed and I was able to practice each method in turn, I began to understand something I wasn’t taught in my creative writing studies. A certain knowledge about the writing process itself which incorporated the best of both methods.
From a metaphysical standpoint, there is no such thing as time; time being a necessary invention of human civilizations. My guiding Spirit, Muse, whatever concept I choose to explain my source of inspiration, does not differentiate between past, present, and future.
Translated, this means that keeping a story real while fictionalizing it had nothing to do with time. The fiction I was—and am—writing could be delivered with all its rawness at any time I chose to put it down in words.
In turn, this means that each “time” I choose to re-enter an experience and write about it, by necessity I had only to recall the emotions I was experiencing at that moment. The story would virtually write itself if I trusted my own feelings and experiences to deliver a workable product.
To use a clichéd but still relevant phrase, the story idea was a “diamond in the rough.” Cutting and polishing the idea was not a time-based action; it could take place at any time.
Keeping it (the experience) real is the key.