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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > July 2018 > Keep it real

Keep it real

Helen M Walters looks at using documents to give your fiction the illusion of being factual

M R James is famous for writing short stories with a ghostly or supernatural element to them, but he had a few tricks up his sleeve for making otherworldly stories feel like they were connected to the real world. He liked to use diaries, letters, and other documents in his stories to give an illusion that the fiction he was writing had a factual basis.

The story we are going to look at this month is The Stalls Of Barchester Cathedral, and you can read it here: writ.rs/barchester. If you feel like reading some more MR James through the link we’ve provided I can recommend in particular The Mezzotint, Count Magnus and Casting The Runes which all use some of the same techniques. Also notable are Martin’s Close, which is largely based on a supposed court report, and The Diary Of Mr Poynter (not in this collection). As usual, you will get most from the masterclass if you read the story yourself.

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About Writing Magazine

How can you get your writing to the readers it deserves? In this month's issue of Writing Magazine we look at how to generate new freelance opportunities and how and why the flourishing independent press scene may be your best bet. First though, if you're a new writer you need to read our guide to finding and fixing those rookie mistakes in How Not to Be a Bad Writer. This month's star interview is the man with the golden pen Anthony Horowitz, talking about bringing back Bond and maintaining his impressive hit rate. Keep up to date with all the latest competitions and opportunities to get into print with Writers' News – there's £37,240 in writing prizes to be won!