The Truth of Fiction

On occasion it has come up in conversation and also in off-hand remarks that fiction is simply a good lie. Maybe even a great lie. It is referred to as ‘the one where you lie’ versus ‘the one where you tell the truth’ (referring to non-fiction). Even some writers refer to fiction as ‘how can I tell the best lie?’

My question is: why is this the view of fiction? It seems to me that fiction doesn’t deal with how can I tell the best lie and make it believable. Not for me any way. I am not concerned with trying to tell the best lie I can. I am concerned with answering the question “What if?” After all most, if not all, fiction writers begin their project with this question in mind. Lying is the farthest thing from our minds.

Sure there are untrue elements in the story and even the story itself is untrue. But the endeavor is not that it is untrue, the endeavor is what if it was? So then a character begins to form. This character would be completely made up if it wasn’t for the fact that most of the time this is a composite of many people that writer has come into contact with or observed or studied. The story of fiction revolves around this character or characters and the challenges they face in the event that what isn’t really is. Real transportation, environments, locations, locales, businesses, etcetera are used in many cases of fiction even if they are used in a fictitious manner for purposes of the story. Real situations, real emotions, actions, and reactions are used. In cases of science-fiction, the same holds true depending on the time period of the story and the world in which the story takes place. Even so, there is some truth in that genre. There is some truth in all kinds of fiction.

The writers of space travel weren’t trying to lie when they wrote about it way back when. It was a possibility. What if we could go to the moon? Then lo, and behold, we went to the moon. What if robots could think on their own? Technologies are in play to create this very thing. What if we could transfer organs from one person to another? The story of fiction, in my opinion, revolves around the character we are reading about. How would a person act and react to these conditions if this were the reality they lived in? If it was our reality? In this way the reader and everyone at large can study and think on our reality and the human condition (or lack thereof) through story and character. Fiction is a window for the wonder of ‘what if’ not ‘let me lie my pants off until they catch fire’.

In my personal opinion whether it’s women’s fiction, genre fiction, or whatever kind of fiction, it’s not dealing with lying the best. It’s dealing with ‘what if?’. Now, this is not to say that fiction tells the truth, I mean that’s why it’s fiction. It’s a fictitious turn of events. But it’s fiction for wonderment’s sake, not for lying sake.


P.S- Besides, there are tons of people who enjoy reading about another place, another time, another person living in a distant place who overcome the odds of great circumstance. I am one of them 🙂



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