Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nothing But the Truth

“Fiction seeks out truth. The writer who can’t distinguish truth from a peanut-butter sandwich can never write good fiction.” -- John Gardner in The Art of Fiction.
I read the cartoons in the morning paper from a different perspective today. I realized the ones I like -- the ones that make me laugh -- are funny because there is an element of truth in them. I can picture myself, or people I know, in those situations. Just before writing this, I re-read two flash fiction stories from Sudden Fiction (Continued). They also contain elements of truth that I missed the first time around. Then, I looked at two of my stories, one published, one not. The unpublished story started as an exercise in writing using the five senses. After reading today’s quote, I realize it’s still no more than an exercise. There’s no depth to the characters, or the plot. It lacks truth. The other story was my first to be accepted by a paying market. It’s a humorous tale about a man who leaves his wife when he realizes she’s a narcissist. He comes to this conclusion after he kisses a pig. Why does this work? I think it’s because the characters are true -- believable -- and remain so throughout the story. This sounds like I’m patting myself on the back. I’m not, because I wasn’t consciously aware of this “truth” when I wrote the story. It was either dumb luck, or my muse looking out for me.

I ended yesterday’s post by saying writing is hard. The truth may be that good writing is harder than hard.

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