Monday, April 29, 2013

Lying to Tell the Truth

When a story is based on autobiographical material there is a tendency to be a slave to the facts.  You write a scene because “that’s the way it happened.”  Well, we don’t care that it happened that way.  Fiction is telling the truth, not telling the facts.  (Truth is something like the essence of fact.  Facts are subject to interpretation or we wouldn’t have a phrase like “The true facts may never be known.”  Let’s say you’re writing a story about a marriage in trouble and you base it on your own troubled marriage.  In the scene you remember, your wife is confessing her infidelity.  The husband (he looks a lot like you) is stunned. He doesn’t know what to say.  The cell phone rings, it’s his brother saying he has tickets to the Mariner’s game on Saturday.  Maybe that’s the way it happened, but is the phone call necessary in the scene you’re writing?  Once you begin your story, you owe your allegiance to the story and not to the facts of your life.  The reader only cares about the lives on the page. 


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