One piece of advice beginning writers often get is about the necessity for them of always telling the truth.
Unfortunately, that piece of advice is pretty useless. To start with, absolute and objective truth is unknowable. In addition, even if a writer is working on a story in which she recounts the truth from her point of view, this doesn’t mean she must at all times put on the page all she knows.
Indeed, there are at least a couple of good reasons for exercising some restraint.
A story is a condensed and organized form of the reality it tries to depict — no matter whether or not such reality is fictional. As a result, a writer needs to choose what are the most important aspects of the story and how to organize them to make it as good as possible. After all, there is a reason why you shouldn’t mention the weather in your novel if it isn’t strictly related to the story.
Personal and universal truth
Certain parts of a story, though compelling and gripping as they might be, could represent a major problem for the writer — psychologically speaking. As a result, she could decide to cut them out entirely, or rethink them in a way that feels less traumatic to her.
These evasive maneuvers aren’t easy to pull off, but a writer should always bear in mind she is in charge of her material, and therefore of what she puts on the page. In fact, sometimes when a writer is really too close to the events relating everything about them can be as counterproductive as trying to gloss over them entirely.
It’s a bit like that old saying about the trees and the forest. When a writer is too close to the events, he can only see the trees. Instead, a story to resonate with its readers must move back and forth from the forest to the trees. As a result, if you’re not willing to deal at least in part with some of the discomfort that a certain story is going to make you feel, you’d probably be better off forgetting about it entirely.
A sustainable truth
The only truth I think writers must strive for is about the way they express themselves, their voice. That is were a writer makes or breaks a story. In fact, there are thousands and thousands of cheating wives, but only one Madame Bovary. Only one Rebecca.
Think of a mouse that finds itself out in the open while a hawk swoops down from the sky. For the mouse the hawk is death itself. For the hawk the mouse is lunch. For an external spectator, depending on her experiences and inclinations, the scene could be evocative, terrifying, or just banal. So, given you can’t completely control what your readers will think of your scenes, you’d better work hard to write them the way you like, the way you feel you need to write them. At least in this way you’ll have fun, and chances are that fun will transpire into your writing as well.
Because you know how it is. As the saying goes, If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.
Happy writing 😛