Based on a True Story

You’ve heard it all before. Based on a true story. Ripped from the headlines. There are a lot of television shows/novels/films that claim that their stories are actual depictions of real life events. But are they? How much truth is in that historical book you’re reading? Do you bother to check? What about those Law & Order shows, they claim the stories are “ripped from the headlines” and maybe they are, but is that as far as things go?

If you ever read the legal mumbo jumbo at the very beginning of a book, you’ll normally see this one:

“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”

Whenever I read Stephen King and he writes about the character’s opinions of President Trump, I think about the phrase “purely coincidental” I take a moment to laugh. Because that’s not coincidental at all.

I watched the film The Strangers (2008) because it had the phrase “Inspired By True Events” on the movie poster. I was intrigued by those four words. Having seen the film, I thought it was a pretty decent horror film. A couple (played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) are taking a staycation at the husband’s summer home. The action starts when a kid comes to the door looking for someone called Tamara. The kid is turned away by the husband. The kid is part of a psycho-killer family, we’re all supposed to be shocked by that, and they begin terrorizing the husband and wife. Spoiler-alert for a 12-year old film. It doesn’t end well for the happy couple, which most likely helps to amplify that believability that it was inspired by true events.

But was it? Well…. sort of.

Director Bryan Bertino said in an interview that while the specific couple weren’t real, there were events in the past that may have contributed to it. Two specific cases featured murders, Manson Family murders in 1969 and Keddie Cabin Murders in 1981, but one is an experience from Bertino himself. Apparently, when he was a child someone knocked on his door asking for someone who didn’t live there. Turns out, there had been a robber going around his neighborhood breaking into homes that didn’t answer the knocking.

Taking those three events, Bertino created the film. I’m not too sure what to think about that. Technically, it is inspired by true events, but it really should say “inspired by various true events.” That, to me, would tell me that there were more than one source. It doesn’t have that great of a ring to it though so….

From my own personal experience, I remember when the film Paranormal Activity (2007) came out. My mom and I went to see that movie in theaters. The film utilized the same type of cinematography as The Blair Witch Project (1999) but instead of a cameraman, the perspective was from film taken from security cameras placed around the house. It starts out with this message: “The producers would like to thank the families of Micah S. & Katie F. and the Rancho Penasquitos Police Department for providing this footage.”

We didn’t have internet like we do today, and it took awhile to convince my mom that this wasn’t actually real. I had to buy a copy of Entertainment Weekly and show her the cover (Micah and Katie jumping in the air). Then she believed me.

Lately, I’ve been writing short, micro fiction and posting it to my Instagram (master.author) and Facebook Author Page (@JamesMaster.Author). Mostly, it’s sad and depressing stuff. My mom, being a mom and all, always asks if I’m okay whenever she reads one of these. I had another person ask if I actually felt like the character in one of those stories.

“It’s just fiction,” I’d say in an attempt to reassure my mom and that person.

And sure, it’s fiction. But it’s also “inspired by true events.” I write these little short stories whenever I’m feeling anxious or depressed. When I’m writing these stories, it seems as if my emotions are being drained from myself and onto the page. And, for a time, I’m fine again. Alas, those feelings never stay on the page because like a refilled cup I’m full of them again.

Which, I guess isn’t a bad thing. It’s simply more fuel for the fire. More words on the page. There really isn’t a lesson to this week’s rant. Honestly, it doesn’t seem that I’m making any point whatsoever. I’m just getting my thoughts and feelings out there. Hopefully, you found this interesting. See y’all next week.



Categories: Mastering the Craft

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