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Wordsmiths101
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Truth in Fiction 
25th-Mar-2007 11:02 pm
ponderances, thinky thoughts
Many moons ago when I thought it was prudent to study the craft of writing (something I have since rethought, but that is for another day) one of my professors stated that there must be truth in fiction. Of course students protested vehemently, especially those of us who choose experimental, sci-fi and/or fantasy genres.

However, now that I am older I realize the very profound truth in it. I have read many works, especially lately, that while far reaching in their philosophical, scientific or other contexts they fall flat because the "real" elements were not truthful.

For example, anyone can lace together a strand of psuedo-science to create a sci-fi thriller, Gene Roddenbury and George Lucas have both proved this. Yet if there wasn't an element of honesty and truth in the details, in the characters, we wouldn't connect and we wouldn't care. This is also true for Tolkein, Rowling, Rice and well, I could go on.
Somewhere in all of the fiction there needs to be something real that we can relate to in order to indulge our suspension of disbelief and get lost in those worlds.

Alot of the posted-up here or there, especially in the realm of fan fiction, I am seeing people lose the details and focus on what they perceive to be the grand themes and, for me, it just falls flat.

What are your thoughts on truth in writing fiction?
Comments 
26th-Mar-2007 06:39 am (UTC)
Interesting topic. One of my favourite quotations, by Stephen King is: "Fiction is the truth inside the lie" (or words to that effect) and, I have to say, I whole-heartedly agree.

While I don't know much about the genres you speak of, not being a huge fan and never having written anything along those lines, I agree with the fact that to truly bury yourself in those stories there has to be some element of truth in them. After all, they say write about what you know, and what do any of us know about strange planets and other worlds, the future or other dimensions? What we write about them is in our imaginations, but our imaginations tend to base the wild fantasies in some form of world that we are familiar with in order to imagine it better, therefore some truth gets involved.

It does make me wonder, though, if it's possible to write a story of lies and get away with it. Now there's a challenge!
26th-Mar-2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you an interesting post.

I think that either teachers fail to explain the concept properly, or students just get so defensive on the introduction that they don't really get the message.

I can remember when I first started to hear this lesson in high school and in college (I am just a little older than you), and I know I didn't want to hear it. And I think my defensiveness came from the fact that I wanted to write _right now_ and it seemed like I was being told that I would have to wait until I had had the proper life experience and then put it down on paper, and that I would have to live a certain kind of life just so that I would be able to write the kinds of stories I wanted to write.

And of course that isn't true.

"...it just falls flat." That's exactly what it does. And sometimes when I'm reading amateur work (and sometimes when I'm reading published works, unfortunately) (and understand that I am also an amateur) I'm not certain if that flatness is due to a lack of understanding about the depth of what they're trying to write, or if they're just not willing/able to let themselves feel what their characters are feeling at the moment and get it on the page.

Because that's the truth part for me. Even if you live on a planet where death is about to fall from the sky and you have to mind-meld with a dragon to help save it, the feelings that you experience as a person are similiar to feelings I have expereienced at some time in my life. That's what I need to relate to you and love you (or hate you) as a character.

So my opinion on madmalteaser's question: Can one write a story that is totally lies and get away with it? Yes. Nothing about the plot, setting, or characters has to come from reality. But the feelings and reactions that the characters have, the inside stuff that motivates them, that has to be real. Not real in an historical sense, but real as in believable and true to the human nature of the character you created.
26th-Mar-2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
Thinking about it, this makes perfect sense. As long as the emotions and feelings of your character are based on something we're all familiar with (love, hate, jealousy etc), it's believable enough for the reader ot have some affiliation whether it be positive or negative.

I suppose, on that basis, you really could write about anything then - the sky being green and the grass being purple a completely possible concept as long as the characters react to it in a way we understand. Well then, that opens up a whole world of possibilities for those of us that tend to write about what we know!
27th-Mar-2007 12:00 am (UTC)
I wouldnt say truth in everything, per say, yet I believe there is something of you laced into what you have written, it may not be a 'truth', like I said, but a 'feeling'. Dunno if that's what you meant. I believe for someone to write something good they'll have to leave a little bit of themselves...a feeling, a truth, a memory behind in their works.
:)
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