Writerly Things 2/17/2020: Sticking to the Truth
“The job of fiction,” Stephen King says, “Is to find the truth within the lies.”
What does this mean? What “truth?” What “lies?”
Everyone has a story to tell. Even though some elements may be similar, your story will not be like anyone else’s because it’s filtered through YOU. This means your life experiences, who you are as a person, what road you take to work every night. That’s why when I was a young writer starting out, Marion Zimmer Bradley told me to forget writing till I’d lived some life. I did practice my craft, but it wasn’t until I’d done some living that I figured out what she’d meant. When you’re young, you think you’ve done some living but the truth is, you’re just getting started. There are heartbreaks, losses of loved ones, getting fired because you’re going through a high-risk pregnancy and can no longer do your job (Yep, happened to me.), divorce, and more waiting to eat into your life.
These are the false bits of your story. Things that distract from the truth. The false herrings, so to speak. They mislead the reader. Take her down another path, to a different place, a different emotion that you want her to experience. They’re meant to take the reader on a ride, to entertain and perhaps even cause sorrow, while she waits to get to the outcome of the story. These can be layered through sidekicks. What is their real story? What are they really after? Or, they can be part of the villain’s plan. What doesn’t he want the hero to know? What tale can explain his actions?
This is what comes out of all that’s gone before now. When you file down your life, it’ll be what’s left. It’s the heart of the story, what you’re trying to say. It’s your soapbox. So, get good and ready because the end will come quick. Best be prepared. The story will pare down, heartbeat by heartbeat, bone by bone, until it reaches that final tick that says, “Life still flows here. This is where it ends. This is where your character/s get their lives back. Or don’t.” This is Dorothy realizing what she’s learned. Old Yeller’s fate. Doc asking Wyatt to walk away. It’s a quick rip of emotions and then whether the story stands or falls. The reality is, sometimes things don’t end well. For the heroes or the villain.
How does yours compare? Any last stabs in there at the climax, trying to get just one more lie in there before the truth is revealed?