A couple of paragraphs later, Miller continues: “For the true writer, though, however close the events may be to his life, there is some distance, some remove, that allows for the shaping of the work. The shaping, after all, is what it’s all about. Every reader can sense the difference between a writer who embodies meaning through events he describes and the writer who seems simply mired in those events. It is that struggle for meaning that lets the writer escape the tyranny of what really happened and begin to dream his fictional dream.”
This sums up what I have been talking about. When I was working on a short story in college that was based on a real event, I was having a hard time. The professor kept telling me that the story was in this or that. I would say, “But that’s not how it happened.” And he said, “But that’s where the story is.” And he was so right. The facts of what happened the night I tore my ACL is good enough for an essay, but not very appealing as a short story. The real story was in my two girlfriends showing up at the hospital. Consequently, I have that story lined up as part of a young adult novel, but it could be good as a short story.
Miller, Sue. “Virtual Reality: The Perils of Seeking a Novelist’s Facts in Her Fiction.” Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times.