Today I feel inspired to talk about the truth inside the lie: where fiction is concerned, the truth that IS the lie. In my mind, that “truth” is a large part of the beauty and the value of all the humanities and the arts.
Earlier this week I wrote about the hidden reason we all write differently: the fact that we write fiction because we enjoy writing fiction, and different things about the writing process and the stories it produces are enjoyable to different people.
Bellatrix Minor responded in part by saying she enjoyed:
“Putting emotion into words, making emotions as honest and direct as I can in a language that I personally can enjoy.”
That comment got me thinking about fiction and emotion, and how a story that is “false” and “made up” can still ring awesomely and inherently true to what it means to be human.
This isn’t a new revelation or anything like that. For sure, I’m not the first person mark or to write about this paradox. But Bellatrix’s remark got me thinking about the paradox.
The lie that speaks the truth is what attracts us to fiction both as readers and writers.
Fiction is all about emotion, and living, and the characters. Fiction is about any and all of this:
- About discovering what it means (0r doesn’t mean) to love
- About grieving through loss and recovering after loss
- About learning how to hope when things are hopeless and to forgive the unforgiveable (as GK Chesterton would define charity)
- About turning anger and frustration at injustice into motivation to make changes
- About the courage to stand up for what is right and for those who aren’t in position to defend themselves, despite the risks involved
The people in fiction might not be real, but what they’re feeling and struggling against certainly is. That representation of the reality we all have to face is why fiction matters.
Sure, reading makes us more intelligent in a “school-based” way. And that matters too.
But reading and writing also make us more intelligent in an emotional way. They make us question our gut instincts and gut reactions to life: reactions that might not be the healthiest at the end of the day.
They remind us that everyone else is as emotionally complex and feels as lost and confused in life as we do. Heck, I’ve written an entire post before about the connection between writing and increased empathy.
MELODRAMA NOT REQUIRED
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying we all need to be writing soap operas. Melodrama can be fun if it’s done purposefully and done well, but….
All literature needn’t be ALL about emotion and confronting horrible, dreadful circumstances.
All stories in all genres tell the truths of human emotion. They explore the density of human emotion, and they do that through lying about fake people.
This is why ancient civilizations were telling stories long before humans were writing anything. This is why the human impulse has always been to explain our surroundings through story: through myth.
The lie is always true.
What books or characters have impacted you most on an emotional level? I can say Sam and Frodo, at the end of The Lord of the Rings, almost had me in tears. I actually stopped reading to call them, out loud, “brave little hobbitses!”
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Also, if you’re interested, don’t forget that my writer’s handbook, “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction” JUST released this week and is on sale this week in e-book format.