I was talking to a friend about her poetry class the other day. Someone read out a poem, and a lady in the class got upset: she thought that it was about a true experience and was angry when the person who wrote it said that it was fictional.
When you’re writing something based on your own experience, the line between truth and fiction is a fine one. You can choose to base a fictional story on a real life experience or feeling: everything in the story may spun off from a single truth, while you change the characters involved, their setting, their responses … where is the truth in that? The story may be emotionally true and coherent while the facts are totally fictional.
As a reader, can you make assumptions about an author when you read their work? On one level, yes, but it is wrong to assume that everyone is writing ‘life as it happened’. Someone who is explicitly writing a true story may only be giving their own views on what happened: how many different views might you need to find ‘the truth’?