Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fictional Truth, Redux -- writing tip

Question: Okay I saw today's (yesterday's) post on the blog about creating a good lie, but doesn't fiction have to have some kind of truth, too? I mean, if it doesn't make a statement, why write it at all????

Answer: Yes, fiction has to have a theme and the theme is, basically, what the story says. For instance, my novel Ghost Dancer, is a romance and there's lots of love story there, but the theme -- what the story really says -- is, "With faith, all things are possible."

So fiction does have to hold a truth that becomes evident as the story unfolds.

Most of my face-to-face students used to look at me as if I'd sprouted warts when I said, "Fiction has to hold real truth." and "Nobody can tell your truth, but you." But, basically that's what I believe.

All fiction (yes, even daffy romances about debutantes and Indian shamen) must have something to say. The key for you, or any writer, is to figure out what you want to say. That's your theme.

How you get it across is a matter of technique, and a matter of telling your shared truth in a way that only you can tell it. For instance, "Cinderella" says "Love conquers all." I doubt it if really did. Just look at the sad life of Princess Diana. I'll bet Cindy would have had a biiiig mother-in-law problem. But in the story, love conquered all and that can be summed up in one line. If you can't one-line your theme, it usually means you're not focused enough on what the story really says.

1 comment:

  1. As you say, even in fiction, unless it's a complete fantasy, you can't just "make some stuff up". For instance, I just read a novel set in Istanbul. The writer describes people, scenery, buildings and museums. I know the story line is fiction, but I have to suppose these things really exist. I feel as if I'm there too. I'd sure hate to visit that part of the world and learn that the writer had just made everything up. I know that Mr. Burroughs wrote about Tarzan because very little was known at the time about deepest Africa. Especially by the average relatively unsophisticated reader of the time. He didn't know any more about Africa than my great-grandson who just graduated from Kindergartsn. But he figured, hey, nowbody else knows anything about it either. Today it's a different story. You don't have to personally visit every place you describe, or be an expert in gardening or firearms or hanggliding, but you can sure learn all about your subject, especially with so much info at your fingertips via the Internet. No excuses; do your research. PS, I hate when a lazy writer just calls a tree a tree, etc. Call it an oak or an ash, a mimosa, a lime tree. Give it some color. And that goes for most everything, unless there's a good reason for the omission. Perhaps a child only sees a tree. He doesn't know what kind it is and doesn't even know there are different kinds. I know I get redundent, but that's my story. Work with it.