Friday, March 18, 2011

Truth vs Fiction

Ever hear the adage "Truth is weirder than fiction"?

That's only a part of it. The actual entire quote reads - "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." (From our very own Mark Twain - I'd always wondered where it came from. Yay, research! But I digress...)

I've always found it a very interesting quote, especially in how deeply it actually affects those of us trying to jockey around words.

Truth/Life don't have to make sense. Things happen out there everyday from an unbelievable amount of coincidences, comedy of errors, idiocy, plain good or bad luck, or a combination of any of the above and more. Control is an illusion.

In fiction, though, you don't have that kind of leeway. As Mark Twain said, "Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities..." Meaning the order of events has to make sense, and more so, be believable! Whenever we write, we must always keep in mind to answer all the pertinent questions - who, why, where, what, and how's.

Even though we write 'make believe', our stories still have to make sense, follow a path, normally have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If we don't cross our T's and dot our I's, we'll lose the reader. We'll inadvertently cross the boundary of the audience's suspension of disbelief (which can vary by reader) and crash and burn.

What's really weird about this (to me anyway) is how something can have happened for REAL, with video and evidence and eye witness reports and I still can't use it in a story, because I can't find a way to make it believable, yes, even though it did really happen! But if I can't fit in logic and believable causality, no matter how true, it just won't fly. The story will get dismissed and I'll get weird looks from my peers. lol.

So beware! The Truth Is Out There, but as authors we can't always USE it! Consistency, believability, and making sure you have all the angles covered like motivation, cause and effect, logic, world dynamics, is the only way to go. When you have all your ducks in a row you can then take readers to worlds and circumstances bigger (yet more cohesive) than reality itself. :P

Good luck!


  1. Truth is also what we seek to write in fiction but truth in a universal sense. Finding the paths to what truth we're trying to show in our stories is what makes the story work. That truth is part of our "Voice" and for each writer it is different. With each story we write, we search for out truth.

  2. I was just telling my older half-brother that some editors have told me my one edgy YA that's based very loosely on my life growing up with an abusive bipolar father is stereotypical. I have to laugh. Even now some people can't believe some of the stuff I went through growing up. Parts of my experience have found their way in all of my stories.

  3. I guess what it comes down to is that sometimes you have to stray from the facts in order to find the truth.

  4. Interesting post. I never really thought about it, but now I am. Truth is so elusive. Like Kim says, people don't always believe it even though we (or whoever wrote about it) know it's true.

  5. Exactly. Brother said it's probably because so many other abused survivor's stories have come out that now it's almost a stereotype even though we know the truth.

  6. Believe it when said Truth is stranger than fiction. My sister percieves herself to the world as a very classy woman. In reality if you walked into her home you would find someone who hoards things. Barely room to walk. On the outside its great but the truth is so much stranger than the fiction we make up in our heads about who someone is.