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A Long and Kinda Poetic Ramble about Story Truth

I've been thinking about stories lately - mostly because I'm writing one. I've been thinking about all the little tricks we writers use to get those words on paper. Know your characters. Build your world. Find your theme. Write chronologically. Don't write chronologically. Edit as you go. Don't edit as you go...
But the problem with those tricks is that they're endless. You can listen to wonderful advice until your ears fall off, but the book is not being written.

I would never presume that I know the Ultimate Trick To Writing A Book, but in all my recent thinking and recent writing, I believe I've stumbled on a secret.

Are you ready?

Tell the truth.
"But wait," you say. "We're writing fiction. Fiction isn't truth. Fiction is the opposite of truth."
Okay. Let me explain.

Truth is one of those things that nobody seems to understand. One person will claim to know he Truth, while the other person will claim that Truth is something entirely different. Some people believe in Absolute Truth, and some people believe in Relative Truth, and some people believe that Truth should always be capitalized when one is writing a blog post about it. (Like me, apparently.)

But this post isn't about Universal Truth or Relative Truth or Absolute Truth. This is about Story Truth.

Even fictional things can be truthful. I'd argue that they must be truthful. Because you, the writer, have a particular Truth inside of you that no one else has noticed. You, writer, have seen things the way others have not. You smell the dairy farm down the street in a different way than your neighbor. Your scar looks rougher and pinker than your friend's even though you fell off your bikes on the same day, at the same time. You know all about the man who sleeps outside the coffee shop every day, because once you felt guilty and sat down to talk with him. No one else did that.

You have a Truth. A particular Truth. One that burns inside of you. And you must write it.

You know you want to. You're scared, sure - Truth is scary - but you are DYING to weave it into your story. You feel like your lungs might explode if you don't. The world may not keep spinning if you do not write about the man who sleeps by the coffee shop, the texture of scars, the scent of summertime cows.

Don't be afraid that it's insignificant. The simplest things can be the most profound. "Loneliness hurts." Yes. Simple, but profound. Write it. "Family is not about blood." Sure, maybe it's a little cliche - but it still moves me. Write it.

Tell the Truth. Wrap it up in story, because sometimes the fiction makes the true thing even more obvious.

"Curses can be broken." That is my personal Story Truth. What's yours?
Kristin Briana Otts

Kristin is an aspiring YA author with an abiding love for her dog, ghost hunter tv shows, and rainy days.

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  1. I just love this post and the concept of Story Truth. So insightful and beautiful, Kristin.

  2. We had a very long conversation in my Writing class last semester about truth vs. Truth ;)

    Lovely post. Currently, my Story Truth is, "Everyone can be forgiven." Which is REALLY scary, because it means my characters have to make big mistakes, be truly sorry for them, and accept that the mistake doesn't have to rule their lives. It's making for a challenging story, absolutely, but it's so rewarding to write.

    1. Challenging, I'm sure - but what an awesome and important truth! I think the challenge definitely be worth it when you finish your book.

  3. I've been thinking a lot about truth recently, as I struggle with not imitating my favorite authors with voice, plot, etc., and it's great to see this post. Very well said, and makes me feel like I'm on the right track. :)

  4. This is a wonderful post, and so on the mark.

    My personal story truth is "Imagination is your strongest weapon."

    1. Oooh, in that case your book sounds like it's right up my alley. :)

  5. Great post! :) I agree, picking one truth in particular and fleshing it out sounds like a great way to set a general theme. I think mine would be "Everyone's got a secret."

    1. That might be another truth in my story as well, lol.

  6. This is a really beautiful post and a wonderful reminder to remember the core of our stories. Thank you! :)

  7. I think my current WIP has a lot to do with Trust. (I'm one of those people who thinks that Trust should always be capitalized in a comment about it.) Most of the conflict comes from those my fMC Trusted not coming through - either unintentionally or on purpose - and then my MMC convincing her to Trust him to help her. There's more betrayal. Then my FMC has to ask her sisters to Trust her decisions... and suddenly she's on the other side of it.

    I'm not sure how that translates to a Story Truth, though.

  8. Indiana Jones said "Archaeology is the search for FACT. If you're looking for Truth go down to the philosophy department."

    My TRUTH is about forgiveness too.

  9. I absolutely loved this post, because it's so true, even for fiction. You write what you believe in, therefore it's your Truth.

    I think mine would be: "There's no greater love than sacrificial love." AKA: Loving so deeply that you're willing to die for them.


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