Fiction Is Truth

According to Merriam-Webster, fiction is defined as something invented by the imagination or feigned, whereas nonfiction is writing or cinema that is about facts and real events. My writing is all novels and short stories, fiction by definition. Except that everything I depict in my writing really did happen.

Because I have lived a life overflowing with adventures, nothing I could invent would equal the real experiences I have had. So I tell true stories, but I turn them into fiction by attributing the true events to fictional characters rather than to myself or someone I have known.

Typical is my novel No-Accounts (Apprentice House, 2014). It tells the story of a straight man caring for a gay man dying of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS, also known as human immunodeficiency virus or HIV). Every event described in the book really did happen. In the early 1980s, men suffering from AIDS were dying on the street because no one would touch them—everyone was terrified of this fatal disease that was decimating the gay community, and no one knew how the AIDS pathogen was transmitted. Because I couldn’t tolerate watching men die abandoned and because I had already faced death numerous times on the battlefield, I volunteered to care for the dying. I spent the next five years looking after seven AIDS patients, all of whom were gay, all of whom died. I loved every one of my patients and grieved over every death. I was so moved by the experience that I wrote a novel about it.

 The author Juris Jurjevics described the resulting book, No-Accounts, as follows: “Tom Glenn lived his novel seven times as a volunteer assisting HIV infected men to die. This is fiction taken from life written by a hero who accompanied the terminally ill as far as any mortal could, devoting himself body and soul to their comfort and helping them make their exit with dignity.”

More next time.

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