Truth In Fiction – WN 020
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I never intended to go into marketing. In fact, I just kind of fell into it — and realized I was fairly decent at it. In marketing, I’ve learned a lot about truth (and how people respond to truth) that I’ll share with you today in Episode 020 of the Write Now podcast.
Truth! Beauty! Right?
There’s an adage that says, “Writers are professional liars.” I can understand the cynicism and humor that lie beneath that statement, but I don’t agree with it. Not a bit.
When you’re writing to connect with people, whether it’s an account of factual events or a story about unicorns piloting spaceships through a multiverse of rainbows, you have a responsibility to tell the truth.
The fiction writer is the penultimate truth-teller.
The resonant and enduring beauty of fiction doesn’t lie in a mere faithful retelling of events. And simply writing what you know (yet another writing adage) is not enough.
We write and read fiction to connect with others — to find truths in one another. As Ernest Hemingway once said,
“From all things that you know, and from all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing, truer than anything true and alive.”
I really can’t say it any better than that.
Read more about it.
Podcast listener Maggie referenced a rich and lovely interview with Maya Angelou in her letter to me. If you’d like to read that interview yourself, you’ll find it here, in the Paris Review No. 119.
I also quote a couple passages from Stephen King’s On Writing in this episode. It’s a great book, and you should read it if you haven’t already.
The book of the week.
I re-read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried for this week’s podcast episode, and I’m glad I did. Not because I especially enjoy war stories or Vietnam War fiction, or even because I missed a lot of its finer nuances as a college student.
It just felt… refreshing to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with truth-telling in fiction.
It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one who gets frustrated by the gross inadequacy and inability of our language to convey the complex spectrum of emotions that can be packed into one single event, one single moment.
I’m not alone in this. You’re not alone in this. And that’s truth-telling at its finest.
Keep up-to-date with my book-related adventures on Goodreads.
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What sort of truths have you discovered in your own writing?
What do you think of the adages “Writers are liars” and “Write what you know”?
Submit your own thoughts or questions on my contact page, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. I can’t wait to hear from you.
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