The Truth About Fiction


I’m always amazed at what goes into writing a book, and as I approach the beginning of the end of my current collaboration with Tamara Thorne, I’m reminded of how precious this really is to me.

I can remember the days when it was new; back when I wrote little more than an occasional stray paragraph – or jotted down an abstract character profile on the back of a napkin somewhere – and wondered when, if ever, I would find a way to plant it into a world of my own making. These kinds of things were my ideas of fun. I already knew I wasn’t, by nature, a huge fan of reality, and that was cool with me. I grew up hearing words like ‘creative’ or ‘imaginative,’ and sometimes even ‘artistic,’ but I couldn’t exactly identify myself in these terms. I wasn’t artistic. I was looking for the best language to interpret my perception of the world.

Since the day I realized there were two sides of the human experience – the cold, concrete existence and its cozier, imaginary counterpart, I developed an appetite to somehow fuse them. As neither of these views of the world are accurate, it stands to reason that the truth is to be found somewhere between them. I wanted to take the sterile, gray underbelly of life in one hand, and the fantastical and romantic highlife – which is as much a part of reality as anything – in my other hand, strike them together, and create a livable middle ground.

Balance.

But how?

Strangely, it didn’t occur to me till earlier today that I’ve been doing just that since I discovered fiction writing several years ago.

Tamara and I were a few hours deep into a work session when I realized that we’d found the truth. We were writing fiction, but we were telling a truth more absolute than any other, and I realized that the pursuit – and attainment – of this truth is the reason I write.

The truth is not easy to spot. There doesn’t seem to be any exact method of discovery. You write and write, and suddenly, you’re on the right track. You just feel it. Characters start talking. Motives are revealed. Plans are made. Several pages later, you wonder: Where the hell did this come from?

I’ve pondered the old theory that all art is a portrait of its artist. I’ve wondered if maybe every character we create – no matter how vulgar or refined – isn’t just a visage of ourselves… every plot concept – no matter how rational or outlandish – a peek into our individual and collective social perspectives. This theory always eluded me though, because I’m generally nothing like my characters. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the opposite is true: that I am nothing like these people. And yet I can’t deny that they tell the world their truths, and therefore – in some way – my own, no matter how much I may or may not agree with their views, but I’ve ultimately concluded that I can’t be sure how much of myself is expressed by my characters – and that maybe this is what it means to reach the peak of the creative process: no longer being able to distinguish yourself from your own fiction.

Over all, I don’t think finding the truth of fiction has much to do with the writer. It doesn’t seem to matter how well or poorly the characters reflect their writer’s attitudes. Instead, I think it’s a matter of discovering the psychological truth of your characters. And the psychological truth of fictional creatures is the same truth of humanity in general. Whatever it is or isn’t, Tamara and I found the truth today. And we told it.

The book we’re currently writing began as an idea for a short story which quickly grew into a novella, and finally developed into a full-length novel, so the entire process has been an ever-evolving matter of discovery. All along, we have known this story intimately, but today, many of the hidden truths were revealed, making the whole thing very real. It is, to be dramatic, like a baby taking its first breath, confirming its intention to survive.

This is a solid story now. And it’s a good one. It’s alive… and regardless of where it goes from here, I’m happy. I write because I believe in fantasy and romance – and I write for the freedom I find in telling my own truths in my own way. That’s what we did today. It was absolutely wonderful… and that ain’t fiction.

It’s just a matter of days now until we reveal our book cover. Soon, we will be posting all about it. We’ve still got a ways to go on the novel itself, but it’s coming together well enough that I can say with confidence that I’m already very proud of it.

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