From Reality to Imagination

ACFWAdvice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW, writing 4 Comments

by Lisa Kibler

I finally did it. I made the leap from nonfiction to fiction, and I love it.

Nonfiction gave me my start in this amazing writing journey as I crafted a story about becoming like a local in my favorite US destination, Gettysburg, PA. As I continued with devotions, compilation contributions, and the memoir of a pastor, the seeds of greater stories grew into Broca-shocking ideas, and sometimes boiled for staying on the burner too long before landing on a page.

As I worked with a writing coach on the memoir, she told me more than once that a nonfiction book needs to read like fiction.

“Let’s make it a page-turner, shall we?” she said.

That was easy with a road to redemption that included abuse, gang-life, addiction, armed robbery, and prison. But now to create a story from, well, nothing. Ha!

As I study the craft, I realize we can’t not bring nonfiction elements into our fiction, because we write from experience. I am reading The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and I am delighted by the names and places from his childhood that made their way into The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

As my novel flows, and ideas disturb my sleep (and my showers), it’s fun to watch how my past infuses the story. The key is to make it new both to me and to my reader. If it reads like an often-regurgitated memory, it won’t taste good to my readers.

I have a memory of a bad experience some others and I  in a previous congregation. This is from where my novel idea stems. It’s real. It’s relevant. It’s a place I don’t like to revisit, but, to quote Rod Serling (remember The Twilight Zone?), “This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you’re on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable…Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. . .Next Stop, The Twilight Zone.”

Is that an invitation or what? As I thought about the books I like to read, I found most of them are suspense with a search for the heroic. I’ve taken what happened to my friends and me and turned it into a novel that includes both. The theme of my book revolves around spiritual warfare with military and sports (specifically football) symbolism.

As I’ve shared chapters with my Word Weavers critique group, the reactions have been encouraging. My second chapter freaked out the lady who was reading it, so I guess I have the edge-of-your-seat factor going. Yay.

As my mind wanders through the plot of this book, other ideas are birthed as childhood through adult memories seep in. I keep a notebook (or talk to Siri) where all those thoughts can simmer until this current book reaches completion.

As you write your fiction stories, think about how your past is filtering in. And think about how God has impacted your life. It can border on the psychological, but as you do, you may even gain some insight into more of your history and come up with more tales. Turns out we don’t write fiction from nothing.

I love how God does that!

On writing: The key is to make it new both to me and to my reader. @LisaLKibler #ACFWBlogs #writetip #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Lisa Kibler and her God-sent cat, Lewis, reside in Minerva, Ohio. A chapter president/mentor for Word Weavers, Lisa also belongs to the Jerry Jenkins’ Writers Guild. She and her new book, Someplace To Be Somebody are represented by C.Y.L.E. Visit her at





Comments 4

  1. What an interesting post and delightful read, Lisa. Thank
    you for illustrating the value of life experiences in our fiction and nonfiction writing. I look forward to reading your memoir and your novel.

  2. Am I real or am I fiction?
    I don’t even know;
    just a walking contradiction,
    going with the flow.
    I have lived the larger life,
    been up, sideways, and down,
    and to my dear lovely wife
    I am a circus clown
    who juggles lit cigars and cats,
    bumbling through the triad rings,
    tripping up the acrobats,
    prat-falling from their swings
    to wipe the greasepaint from my brow
    as I take another bow.

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