Welcome back. Today’s blog is about the importance of truth in Fiction.
Although, my novel, Weepers, embraces truth. I believe, Fiction generates truth independently of fact, and, because of that, Fiction is a better teller of truth than nonfiction. Good Fiction will cause the reader to feel the truth of what the novelist is showing. Often by the skillful use of metaphor. Note that I say embrace the truth, not tell the truth. In nonfiction, we are free, to tell the truth, but as novelists, we ought to show or embrace the truth.
Aside from the vital lies, we tell ourselves, we generally think of fact, truth, and reality as interchangeable. Even the dictionary (see below) overlaps the definitions. But as writers, especially novelists, we must understand, embrace, and acknowledge them as distinct and story-driven. We want our reader to feel the fear, smell the rain, and hear the howl of a wounded wolf. We want our reader to be in the scene, on those mean streets, hungry, tired, and understanding the pain. Not from a textbook, but through deep POV and emotional connection between character, setting, story, and reader. The truth of it all makes all the difference.
We can create our reality in our novel, but then our characters must act consistently within that reality. We must also embrace the truth or at least acknowledge it and respect the facts, whether real or story driven.
- Fact – (noun) something that exists; reality; truth; something known to exist or to have happened.
- Truth – (noun) the true or actual state of a matter; conformity with fact or reality.
- Reality – (noun) The state or quality of being real; resemblance to what is real; a real thing or fact; real things, facts, or events taken as a whole; state of affairs.
- Truth – Using it or acknowledging the truth
- Truth vs. Facts – real facts and story-driven facts
My seven main points are:
- Novelists must understand the distinct role of truth, fact, and reality in Fiction to allow the reader to flow into a suspension of disbelief.
- How to use, or change, facts (truth or reality) within your story. In Weepers, I wanted it to be snowing on Christmas Eve in New York City in 1951. But it did not snow. And even the front page of the New York Times said, “No Snow for Christmas.” But I’m a novelist, so I can make it snow. But I add, Angelo, saying to his father while the two of them are walking in the snow, “I’m glad Nonna’s paper was wrong about the snow.” His father responds with, “Yeah, even the Times doesn’t get it right all the time.” So, I nod to the truth and enjoy the power and freedom of my pen.
- A metaphor is a powerful truth-teller. Indeed, I try to use simile as little as possible but lean more on metaphor, which I believe appeals more to emotion and pulls the reader deeper into the story.
- Genre fiction, bio-fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, etc. In all Fiction, it is most important to adhere to the truth of the world you have created. The reader will accept a lot, but the inconsistency with world, scene, character, or creative truth, will cause them to close the book.
- Storytelling can reach inside the reader and bring feelings to the surface in a way that nonfiction facts simply cannot. A well-written novel will have your reader identifying with characters and situations. “That happened to me,” they will say. “I know how Angelo’s mother feels,” they will tell you. And the most powerful four words any author could hear from a reader, “and then what happened?” They are in the story. They are turning pages.
- We write to evoke emotion. People will forget my name and what I said in Weepers, but they will remember how it made them feel…or at least a feeling.
- Fiction-storytelling is the most powerful way I know to share a truth; please embrace that in your writing. But most importantly, write Fiction to entertain your reader.
WORKSHOP: Select a newspaper article, an ad in a magazine, anything that tells instead of shows. Rewrite it by showing emotion, the five senses, truth beyond what is in the original piece. Make your reader not only care but feel the truth of what you have written. Give it a shot.
Thanks for being here and please stay brilliant, healthy, and hopeful, Nick