In an article in the Sun, author Joan Martin, noted that human beings are natural storytellers. Our imaginations and life experiences drive us to invent stories which reflect what we have learned and what we still ponder.
In concluding her article Joan said " Everything I write is true, and some of it really happened." This expression immediately caught my attention. We generally want to divide writing into fiction and non-fiction, that which is historical and that which is not. The word fiction has then come to mean that which is unreal and untrue. If the witness' testimony was described as a fiction, then we take that to mean that he lied. In a similar vein, we hear the word, myth, and conclude the same thing; it is a concocted story with no validity.
However, Joan's words suggest that a story can be true but not real, i.e. not an historical account. That certainly contrasts with what might be the more typical understanding, namely that unreal also means untrue. It all boils down to the meaning of "true" and "real". I'd suggest that "real" implies scientifically observable or historically verifiable in some sense. "True" on the other hand carry's a larger measure of subjectivity. If a writer chooses to project a "truth" in his or her writings, that "truth" will be of the personal variety, one person's notion of what is true. Conceivably that truth is a universal one, but not necessarily. Fictional writers, their stories, and the implied truths in those stories become much more universal when the same truths appear with multiple authors, reflecting a common understanding of the human experience.
I tend to apply this contrast between real and true to the Bible. I see the truth of the Bible as being the universal moral principles it sets forth. Those principles are not dependent on the historical or scientific validity of the individual stories. As in all good stories, not all the principles and motivations exhibited are noble ones. Story tellers inherently mix the good, the bad, and the ugly within their narratives. The Bible is no exception.
Poetic language, involving hyperbole, and heightened symbolism, are a regular part of many narratives, Again, the Bible is no exception.