Truth in Fiction: Reality-Based Novels

By: Ben Rose


“The best stories come from deep within us and are of us. Either our inner child comes out to play and makes all things possible, or we mold our characters and events from our own experiences, or our dreams of wanting to experience.”― Judith Kohnen, One Chance, One Moment


Raw Material


Most of my life has been a constant battle; however, that’s when I felt most alive. But those fights left scars, some you can see, and others are within me.

From them, I gained something we call wisdom, created some small amount of joy, forged the most meaningful friendships, discovered the closest thing I know to happiness, found love, and had some sense of purpose.

Five decades into the journey, I began writing novels about some people I’ve met along the way. First in Everybody But Us, and then in The Long Game, I began exploring the world of young adults attempting to survive in very adult situations. They are far from ready to take on adult situations, but they genuinely have no other choice. From earning income the only way they can — being a drug mule, playing music for throw money, and gambling – to hustling motel rooms and making sure they have enough food, these teens are young in name only.

The repercussions of having to survive at such an early age, losing any shred of innocence they ever knew, and often without any adult supervision or guidance, these teens experienced the insidious downward spiral of alcoholism and addiction. In both novels, I attempted to explore some of the reasons behind the addiction. Reasons that show where addiction can be symptomatic of far more significant issues.


Replacing My Life with Theirs


I created chronologically young people who have survived savage abuse, neglect, and emotional trauma. They survived by their own rules and by the only means available to them. Those methods worked…until they didn’t.

I met several of these young people in meetings and other settings. Hearing their stories, I felt an immediate connection. As I stated at the beginning of this article, I have my own scars from the fights and flights on the hard road. I have had my own hard roads to travel.

Readers frequently ask if any part of myself exists in the characters I create. I believe every author leaves a part of themselves or themselves in their characters. How could that not be the case? I am not my characters, but events and experiences throughout my life are woven into my stories because they are authentic. My life and the lives of my characters are complex and challenging; they convey the harm done to and by people when they are trying to survive.


Revising for the Reader


That brings up a second point.

  • How does one not fall into the pit of maudlin and morose description?
  • Does the writer convey the experiences without trying to hold the reader hostage?
  • How does the writing not become a soap opera for the sake of eliciting unearned emotion?

My answer is to spew emotion onto the page. Let all the hurt, the rage, the unrequited lust, the hatred, all of it cover the page. Cuss freely and often if you wish. Hold back nothing. And then…only then…edit the mess into something worthy. Trim off the worst parts. Shape and polish the novel. Then do it a few more times.

Send this edited work to beta readers you feel can be trusted. After they return their comments, edit again.

After countless editing sessions and moments of self-doubt, I felt freer. I found forgiveness for others and myself. After the catharsis of writing, taking the advice of my beta readers, and a thorough revision and edit, I had two serviceable novels. The process has a transforming effect, or it did for me.

There are many ways to write a story, as many as there are authors to write them. Mine is only one method. The stories I tell, however, must be written. If they only help one person recover, if they encourage one person to keep going forward, if they cause one person to offer help to those in most desperate need, I will have done my job.



Bio: Ben Rose

Truth in Fiction: Reality-based Novels marilyn l davis two drops of ink ben roseBen Rose is the author of Everybody But Us and The Long Game.

An Oregon native, he currently resides on The Florida Gulf with his better half and their emotional support cat. He has traveled extensively by bus, car, freight train, Amtrak, and foot to see America and find stories to write.

Born at the end of the turbulent sixties, his travels began in his formative years. Early in life, he developed a love of cheap motels, greasy spoons, and great comedians. He speaks fluent hipster as well as English and a smattering of French.

Ben is an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, a supporter of human rights, and a believer in racial and gender equality. As one with Asperger’s, GAD, and PTSD, Ben has seen his share of hard traveling, abuse, and bullying, all subjects reflected in his literary works.


Other writing from Ben Rose on Two Drops of Ink

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Other writing from Ben Rose on From Addict 2 Advocate

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Two Drops of Ink: The Home for Collaborative Writing


Truth in Fiction: Reality-based Novels marilyn l davis two drops of ink ben rose


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