Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Truth in Fiction

A Conversation about Reading like a Writer . . .


Reading like a Writer There were no comments on this past Monday’s post—Our Blog Conversation Stays Focused on Truth in Fiction—so, I get to venture in my own direction… :-)

And, my personal directional focus for the current long-haul is what many writers spend much of their time doing—Reading

Not all writers write every day, contrary to what the ‘Net-Gurus keep screaming.

Not all writers who balance reading and writing take care to read books recommended by ‘Net-Gurus.

Many very serious writers actually make their own decisions about what they read; and, often, it’s exactly what they most like reading—the stuff that gets them thinking like a writer—the books that inspire their own personal brand of creativity…

My all-time favorite fiction writer is C. J. Cherryh and I’m in process with a reading marathon of her work—many I’ve read before, some I’ve never touched—around 20 books…

And, there are about 5 books I’ll read after those—various works of poetry…

I’m preparing to go from writing my series of shorts—The Story Bazaar—to writing a second poetry book; and, contrary to those pesky ‘Net-Gurus, I’m doing only what my Muse urges me to do…

I’ll share a bit from a writer I often re-blog here, Roz Morris, from a post she wrote for Writers Helping WritersRead More Fiction (a note for non-fiction writers—you can easily “translate” what she says...):

“…we’re all story lovers. But I mentor a lot of authors and you wouldn’t believe the number who tell me they make a deliberate point of not reading other fiction. I ask their reasons, and the answers have a certain logic:

  • They don’t want to be influenced by other writers or inadvertently copy an idea, character, or plot situation.
  • They need to spend the time writing because they’re struggling to fit enough hours in.

“But when I’m critiquing their work, I frequently see problems that could be solved by studying the fiction of others. Here’s the short list of the usual suspects:

Boring Exposition
Failing to Give Readers What They Want
Dialogue Issues
Writing that Falls Flat

And, here comes another attempt to give you a reason to comment on this post and keep the Conversation going:

My past post, How To Read Like A Writer, that considers the book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.), by Francine Prose.

Here are just a few statements from that book:

Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—“…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

“The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.”

So…

I hope I’ve given you enough to ponder so you can share your thoughts and/or feelings in the Comments to continue this particular topic…

And, if you’d rather, share a comment with your own suggestion for a Conversation here…

All suggestions need to be in the realms of Reading or Writing or Publishing; or, any two at a time; or, all three at once :-)
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Our Blog Conversation Stays Focused on Truth in Fiction


Some may feel that “truth” and “fiction” are eternal opposites… Truth in Fiction

Yet, readers can, regularly, consume a book of fiction and come away feeling they’ve learned something profoundly true about life…

This past Wednesday’s post was the beginning of our exploring this apparent truth about fiction—Our Blog Conversation Takes a Turn toward Truth. . .

You may want to check it out before finishing this post…

Back already? :-)

O.K., here are the two comments on that past post—one from the U.K. and one from Australia—both from authors:

U.K.:

“If I didn’t put truth in my books I’d have nothing to write about. Of course one adapts the truth to fit a story; but, who hasn’t used a remembered place or situation, or even a character in their fiction? I believe even if an author writes fantasy they still use attitudes remembered from real life. My readers often ask if a character in my novels is really me and there are bits of me and my experiences in every book. Truth and imagination are blended in fiction, just as they are in drama.

“I’m told my books read like a ‘soap’ and take that as a compliment, not a criticism.”

Australia:

“I believe that fiction does always have a core of truth – But what does ‘core of truth’ mean? For me ‘truth’, in this sense, means an authentic voice and an emotional centre whose logic rings true. I don’t think the truth we are talking about here is the same as ‘it actually happened in reality’….A Hobbit did not take the ring to Mordor at any time we can remember in real life; but, the whole story resonates with an emotional, mythological and spiritual Truth – which is why we read it.

“Many writers, I believe, start with the grain of some small fact which they fictionalise into some larger world of even greater truth.”

Each of those comments say a lot about truth and fiction; but, I’ll only emphasis a bit of both…

U.K.:

“Truth and imagination are blended in fiction, just as they are in drama.”

This statement rings many bells for me:

I was already completely convinced that fiction has a truth about it; and, I now also realize that even a play about real life is a staged fiction that still speaks truth…

Australia:

“A Hobbit did not take the ring to Mordor at any time we can remember in real life; but, the whole story resonates with an emotional, mythological and spiritual Truth – which is why we read it.”

I’m glad the idea of Mordor was summoned—I’ve often felt I was approaching the place; yet, to be reminded we read fiction to discover the truths within it is comforting

What are your thoughts on this topic?

What are your feelings about it?

Care to share in the comments?
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Using Science in Fiction ~ Tread Carefully . . .


I used the words “Science in Fiction” not “Science Fiction” in the title of this post… 

Cat's Eye Nebula

Image Courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope Image Site

Most fiction that isn’t science fiction doesn’t use much science.

And, much science fiction doesn’t use real science.

There’s a breed of “science fiction” that goes into imaginary worlds that have no support or anchor in true science—many of these stories are fun to read.

There’s also a substantial amount of what folks like to call “hard” sci-fi that stays as close as it can to what is thought to be true science.

But, there’s a problem here

Much of the science (especially astrophysics) that is used to create science fiction is purely imaginary and has little to do with knowledge generated through the scientific method.

I’ve probably lost many of my readers by now; but, if you’re still there, I may have something yet to say that might benefit anyone—even those who don’t care much about science.

Let’s talk about fiction itself.

Should fiction be based on truth?

I have two past posts that approach the issue:

Does Fiction Always Tell The Truth?

How Much Truth Should Be In Fiction Stories?

A few excerpts:

“Truth” can be a slippery topic—it can have “layers”—it can change over time…

Then, there’s the word “fiction”—sometimes used to mean, “an untruth”; sometimes to mean, “an invented statement or narrative”.

And, being “invented” doesn’t automatically make something untrue…

Certainly, any story that resonates with most readers must have a heap of truth in the fiction…

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.

That last excerpt is from the post, How Much Truth Should Be in Fiction Stories?, and that post has a fascinating video from a scientist who talks about “unscientific” science

But, the writer of any genre of fiction must still balance the “truth” they want to convey with the “facts” that are true

There’s another past post that I feel any writer could profit from reading (it also has a profound video)—Setting A Few Things Straight About The Universe . . .

Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Ultimately, because psychology shows that the deepest, not-conscious information and motivation have profound effects on conscious action, the closer I can get to the Truth about the Universe and my place in it, the better I should be able to write works that relate well with my readers.

Naturally, there are writers who skim the surface of life, write about it, and sell thousands of books to readers who gobble up the result…

So, I’ve been loudly hinting that much of science is bogus.

But, even though I’ve spent many years doing the research, no one should believe me without checking things out on their own

Perhaps I can help you begin that trek by sharing a few brief excerpts from an article from New Scientist, “In Science, is Honesty Really Always the Best Policy”?

“…one-third of scientists confessed to ‘questionable research practices’ such as cooking data…”

“…researchers see plagiarism as more heinous than making results up. They are more likely to report a colleague they catch in an act of plagiarism than one fabricating or falsifying data.”

And, if those don’t make you start wondering about the “truth” of “science”, this one should:

“…teaching research ethics made students more likely, not less, to misbehave.”

Also, in case you’ve seen the hoopla about scientists finally detecting gravity waves (from two merging black holes), you might want to perform a reality check by visiting the Thunderbolts Project Forum

The following video, with a real scientist (which was banned by TED), could also help you begin a search for truth in science; and, if you can find a way to judge truth in science, you’re well on your way to finding truth anywhere


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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.”

So

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

PART ONE

PART TWO


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So, You Say It’s Fiction; But, Are All The Facts Straight?


Sure, the word “fiction” comes from roots that mean “to knead, form out of clay” or “invent” but, unless you’re writing fantastic-fiction that happens in an alternate universe, you need to invent based on certain given qualities; and, the clay of truth must be kneaded carefully

The novel I published last year (free in the left side-bar) is based on over 20 years of searching for Truth.

In order to present that Truth, I had to invent a civilization 12 light-years from earth

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

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

And, to nail down my main point even more firmly, Margaret Frances Culkin Banning, best-selling American author of thirty-six novels and an early advocate of women’s rights said, “Fiction is not a dream. nor is it guesswork. It is imagining based on facts, and the facts must be accurate or the work of imagining will not stand up.”

So, many authors spend huge amounts of time doing research to assure themselves they’re building their fictional castle on solid sands.

But

What if the people writing the material being researched lied?

What if a writer publishes a story then finds out the “truth” elements came from a work involved in an academic scandal?

I got an email today from a gentleman at OnlineCourses.com that led me to the article The 10 Biggest Research Scandals in Academic History.

Reading it could educate you about the necessity of deeply checking and rechecking your sources

While I was visiting the site, I also found an article called The 20 Essential LinkedIn Groups for Aspiring Writers.

I wonder if those groups on LinkedIn could help a writer who’s deeply checking and rechecking sources………
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