A term I use a lot when I critique other writing is sincere. "This sounds sincere to me," I'll say. Or, the alternative, "This doesn't sound very sincere." I'll admit that it's not the best word to use. Much of fiction is created, and probably all of fiction has at least a few details that aren't actually true. And, even though I've tried to stop using such a vague word in my comments to other writers, I feel that the need for it comes up time and again.
Because, don't you think you can tell when a fiction writer is describing a real event?
A writing teacher once told me a quote that I think about often. She said, "Fiction is the mask that allows you to stand naked in front of your audience." Or something like that. (And, of course I forget who the quote originally came from). But, it's an idea that I have relied on often. I am willing to be more honest with my thoughts and emotions as long as I'm allowed to call what I write fiction.
At the same time, readers read to be entertained. I've been working on my first adventure book, and already I can feel myself caught up in the events of this extremely fictional story. I started it a couple of days ago, and in the first thirty pages, literally all of it came from my imagination. Then, at around page 31, I found an opportunity to rely on my real life experiences. A couple was preparing to do something very difficult, and one was losing faith in the other. Even though the first part of the book had action and drama and magic, I found myself getting truly excited--perhaps in a different way--about this little domestic squabble. This was my naked. This was the real emotion that was peeking through all of the stuff I was creating.
I think when we read, whether we are aware of it or not, something in our brain is always looking for the sincerity in the fiction. The naked. The facts. However you want to call it. For a story to be properly memorable, I think it needs to be the perfect balance of imagination and reality. To filter out the real emotion, the heavy stuff, is to tell a story that won't stay with the reader. To ramble on only about the things that really happened is likely to bore a reader.
So, what do you do with the naked parts of your story? Do you reveal them? Hide them? Consider them unworthy? How do you balance the fun details you are creating with the parts of the story that are actually real?