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I am currently working on a story. I would like to publish this on a literary magazine website, and this website has only three categories - fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

My story is probably not poetry, even though I do pay attention to form and word choice and extreme personification.

My story is not really fiction, because the narrator is me, and all the characters are based on real people, and the experiences are real experiences. I just change the names to protect my privacy. The narrator's name in the story is also the author's pen name.

That leaves only non-fiction. But non-fiction doesn't seem to fit either. The exact course of events in the story has never really happened in my personal life, but each piece does come from my personal life. The other characters are based on real people, but I don't have a tape recorder with me all the time, so much of the dialogue is based on what I think/remember what the people said at one time. And the extreme personification and attention to form make the entire work sound like free verse poetry. In the story, I personify a concept. Also in the story, I intentionally break a sentence's flow for the sake of form.

I don't know where mine fits.

  • Do you have a preference for how it is classified? – bruglesco Feb 15 at 4:20
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It's fiction.

It's probably closest to memoir, which is basically autobiography, a type of non-fiction. But then you say:

The exact course of events in the story has never really happened in my personal life, but each piece does come from my personal life. The other characters are based on real people...

If you're not certain (or if you'd really like to submit it as non-fiction), ask the publisher.

It's fiction based on real life. Your goal is the story and your inspiration is reality. But you aren't trying to document the historical record. It may be thinly disguised fiction, but it's still fiction.

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    +1 you beat me to it... and formatted it better than mine :( – Shadowzee Feb 15 at 5:18
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    That's the right answer. @Double U wouldn't be the first to write taking from experience. – Liquid Feb 15 at 9:22
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    +1 for the concise answer. "Inspired to true events" is still fiction. – NofP Feb 15 at 12:54
  • "Inspired by true events." That's the phrase that sums it up, thanks @NofP – Cyn Feb 15 at 14:59
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This is "autobiographical fiction," which is a very common subgenre of fiction. In fact, it's so ubiquitous that people tend to assume this is what most writers are writing unless there's clear reason to believe otherwise.

There's no reason to treat this or present this as anything other than fiction (outside of whatever personal fallout there might be if the real life inspirations recognize themselves in your characters).

  • As an aside, what is the difference between autobiographical fiction and memoir? Or is there one? – Cyn Feb 15 at 18:34
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    @Cyn A memoir is presented as non-fiction and accordingly makes promises of fidelity to fact that autobiographical fiction doesn't. Autobiographical fiction can be all true but the names, or wholly invented --the world is wide open. But many of the most famous novels have been thinly disguised autobiography. – Chris Sunami Feb 16 at 16:52
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While it sounds like what you're writing is not Creative Nonfiction, this essay about it may help clarify your self-description: https://www.creativenonfiction.org/online-reading/what-creative-nonfiction

"Creative” doesn’t mean inventing what didn’t happen, reporting and describing what wasn’t there. It doesn’t mean that the writer has a license to lie. The cardinal rule is clear—and cannot be violated. This is the pledge the writer makes to the reader—the maxim we live by, the anchor of creative nonfiction: “You can’t make this stuff up!”

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