Truth & Honesty in Fiction

The thing about the “blogosphere” is that it can allow for a lot of deep discussion of big issues, if we let it.  Every blogger has his or her own soapbox on which he can stand to proclaim his or her opinion.  And then there are comments where, if they’re smart, they let other people express their opinion.  Some of those commenters – most, these days – will be other bloggers, who can go back to their own blogs to spout their own opinions again, and so it goes, back and forth, round and round, and maybe eventually we arrive at the truth of the matter, or maybe we just reach a level of comfort with our beliefs after having had a critical look at them.

This is a conversation that, in this iteration, was started over on Lua Fowles’ Bowl of Oranges on Monday.  But this is my soapbox, so this is where I tell you what I think.  What I didn’t think was that I’d be doing a blog post on the topic.  But a comment by J.P. Cabit on Lua’s blog, and a subsequent comment that Janna T. left over on my Comment Policy page convinced me there’s more to explore on this issue.  The topic, if you haven’t followed the links, is on “Honesty” in what we right.  But this topic can be explored on more than one level: there’s at least two, possibly three, that I can directly touch on in this post.  (I suspect this will be a long one, and so I may have a follow-up tomorrow.)

It’s an old saw that writers – especially Fiction writers – are professional liars.  (I can’t find a good quote on it, but you’ve heard the phrase before, I’m sure.)  It’s an equally old saw that somehow Fiction reveals Truth (that comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

But this raises the question: what is Truth?  What does it mean to be “True” in Fiction, or to be “Honest” as writers, when what we write is fundamentally not true, in the strict, factual sense?  It’s a philosophical question, perhaps, but it’s worth considering. Continue reading