Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

How Much Truth Should Be In Fiction Stories?

“What I say next may or may not be believed but, either way, this story is true—true as fact or true in the way fiction can rise to heights unattainable by mere facts.”

That statement is from one of the characters in my most recent book—Notes from An Alien.

It’s fiction but, to the best of my ability, the story is True

The word history of “True”: Old English trēowe, trȳwe ‘steadfast, loyal’; related to Dutch getrouw, German treu, also to truce.

And, to create a meaning-circle, “Truce”: Middle English trewes, trues (plural), from Old English trēowa, plural of trēow ‘belief, trust’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch trouw and German Treue, also to true.

So, basically, to be “True” means to have steadfastness, loyalty, belief, and trust

Four words that any “self-respecting” fiction story should attempt to live up to.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with this saying: “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

Mark Twain: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

Stephen King: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

Albert Camus: “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”


Many fiction writers expend great effort in their research to learn “facts” that will lend some “truth” to the “lies” they tell.

One particular genre (among many) where this can be important is Science Fiction.

What I say next can easily be applied to many other genres

Imagine a science fiction writer who wants to add science facts to their story.

They conduct research and, usually, adapt whatever they find that is given by “experts”.

One problem with this method:

“Experts” are not necessarily Experts.

Especially if that writer is using MainStream scientists—most of whom have lost the ability to use the Scientific Method and are sprinkling around a bunch of “farie dust”; Fictional Ad hoc Inventions Repeatedly Invoked in Efforts to Defend Untenable Scientific Theories. {credit to Donald Scott}

To avoid passing on false truths in fiction, Dig Deep—Look Far—Add “Controversy” To Your Google Search

To drive home the point about scientists who don’t do Science, I’ll share a two-part video of Rupert Sheldrake, author of The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Memory of Nature, explaining how so many scientists are getting it wrong

I do hope a few authors of other genres (like Crime or Historical) will share their experience in the Comments of looking for the Truth to add Steadfastness, Loyalty, Belief, and Trust to their Fiction



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9 responses to “How Much Truth Should Be In Fiction Stories?

  1. Barbara Blackcinder January 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Wow Alex, I hardly know what to think next?


  2. Kelsey J. Mills January 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    What a great post! I honestly didn’t know the definition of truth, I have never bothered to look it up. It’s nice to know that fiction is truth :)


  3. tomis landar February 12, 2013 at 11:34 am we perceive it in a temporal sense, it an accurate rendition of the conditions of a certain person, article, or concept “at that time”. As such, truth is subject to revision, based upon new and verifiable data. Truth does not necessarily have to change if the new information is unverifiable. Truth, in the light of unverified data that seems reasonable may simply expand the range that a particular truth might exist within.

    One example might be love. I can state I love you, but revise my statement one way or another depending upon a multiplicity of variables. It is possible to love less, and more, depending on time and the ever changing nature of life and our relationships.

    Facts are odd little things, in that mostly they do not change. Truth may become fact, or fact-like, and facts so doggedly held throughout the ages can fade with new knowledge and therefore slip into the fuzzier truth category.

    I submit, that it is humans that demand more from what we know, constantly attempting to place higher values on what we consider our truths, until such time they become a brittle, ephemeral fact. It is this rush to “know”, to clearly define our boundaries, that suppresses our willingness to accept the majesty and mystery of wonder and curiosity, and drive our thinking to more solidified forms.

    Truth is the realm of the philosopher and the poet, fact the kingdom of the mathematician and scientist. Rarely will you find truth and fact separated, as they tend to be inevitably linked together, and it is the link that we all seek to see and comprehend. So there you have it, Truth and Fact are the eternal faerie twins, dancing amongst the stars, and leaving it up to us to hear the tune.


    • Alexander M Zoltai February 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      You say, Tomis, “…Truth and Fact are the eternal faerie twins, dancing amongst the stars, and leaving it up to us to hear the tune.”

      And, I know you are a scientist, yet still a man of literary writing—you seem to be dancing—you’re willing, imho, to bear with ambiguity to release your mind to accept realities not much considered in our frenzied society


      • Tomis Landar February 12, 2013 at 7:24 pm

        Science is a process of conscience, and yes while we dwell on facts and theories, we must also reserve a part of ourselves to accept and contemplate other possibilities. Historically, science and scientists have ignored and even attacked the concepts of bacteria, continental drift, alternate dimensions and universes. That we now have found some evidence of all of these, and granted in some cases “proof” eludes our grasp for the moment, they should underscore that the more we learn, the less we know. And it is a dogmatic scientist that cannot accept the need to address the fringe of our knowledge as not so much a questionable edge, but rather a poorly defined shoreline.


  4. Pingback: Using Science in Fiction ~ Tread Carefully . . . | Notes from An Alien

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