Tell the Truth

Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie. – Stephen King

This past Friday, David asked where to draw the line on topics that could hurt those who may have been involved or scarred by an event. Jesi wrote earlier about trigger warnings  being put on books and shared her opinion how useful, or rather how useless, she believed them to be in most cases. I wanted to add on to their discussion by talking about the truth we find in fiction.

I like King’s quote above about the truth that we find inside the lie of fiction. We spin stories out of our wild (and twisted 🙂 ) imaginations, but most any story will reflect some truth. However off the beaten path our story, or how painfully close to home, we do our job when we share something true.

Some of my favorite stories aren’t the most pleasant. Some of the greatest books ever written build their story on the foundation of real events, bringing to vivid life something we might not otherwise imagine or understand. George R.R. Martin has a line in one of his Song of Ice and Fire books (Game of Thrones novels) that I love: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” A reader can only live through our stories if we have the courage to write them.

We need to write them even if they risk bringing up pain in the reader.

We need to write them even if they risk bringing up anger in the reader.

We need to write them even if they risk bringing up any difficulty to the reader.

We just need to be sure our stories tells the truth.

What do I mean by telling the truth?  Even if the story is fiction, a lie as King says, it can speak to the reader about something real and important to you or to them. Despite many people, like myself, wishing they could get their Hogwarts acceptance letter and attend school with friends like Harry, Ron and Hermione, JK Rowling’s world isn’t real. (Except okay *maybe* it is – I can’t give up all hope! 😉 ) Even though the world may not be real, Rowling gives us a very real picture of friendship, an interesting look into the magic of growing up, and an examination of evil in a fictional world. She tells the truth. What truth? It’s hard learning to trust yourself when you are also trying to just figure out who you are. Some people make choices that lead them in dark directions. Sometimes you can find friends who will fight with you when you have battles in your life. (I could just go on and on but that’s probably another post.)

Many classic novels you read in high school and college tackle topics that can be a bit touchy and could be labeled with trigger warnings but there’s no denying they tell a truth we often need to see.  One book that I think of is Beloved by Toni Morrison. It is an award winning novel that deals with some of the brutal and heartbreaking parts of slavery and while it is difficult to read at times, it tells many truths. Truth that needs to be shared and not forgotten. Even if it hurts.

My answer to David’s question then would be to go for it if he feels compelled to write about 9/11 as long as it’s not exploitive and if it ultimately tells a truth. Having read David’s work, a particularly lovely short story that was very open and honest comes to mind, I have no doubt he would be successful in doing so.

What are some books that you have read that tell a truth in the lie? Are there any you can think of that did not have some truth told? (Cough, cough, 50 shades, cough) Please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments.

Have a great week! ~CJS



4 responses to “Tell the Truth

  1. interesting – I like it. I find myself looking for points of truth in the stories I choose to read – without realizing that was what I was doing.

  2. Thank you for the kind words, CJ. I do find that discomfort and pain bring out the best in writing for me. Of course, for someone who treasures their privacy, writing that way can be difficult, but am glad once I’ve done it.

    • I am sure you are not alone there, David. I am reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed right now, which is memoir not fiction, but her description of the pain at losing her mother is heartbreaking, but such great writing.

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