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  1. #1
    Russ Still

    Truth in Fiction

    We had this thread going last week regarding whether or not fictional books should be based on fact. Personally, I enjoy them most when I think they are. But here's a link to a very interesting interview where they author believes otherwise:


    - Russ

  2. #2
    Jack Klaw

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    Some stories, Pulp Fiction or Ferris Buehller, for instance, are so intensely plotted that you have to go a long way to find the truth. Still, you'd have to say Tarentino was drawing on SOMETHING when he wrote Pulp, and John Hughes came from Chicago. Some scripts seem to have the illusion of truth through the craft of well written (and acted) words. Love Letters comes to mind. I never saw the play, but I really enjoyed the adaptation I saw on television the other night. Writing that had to be like bending wet willow branches to make rustic furniture; I mean, THERE was reality beaten and hammered into a shining ornament. How much truth was there in it? I suspect quite a lot, and yet, because of the needs of the format, some of it rang false, at least to my ear. Do you know that play? It follows the lives of two people through the letters they write over the years. Actors say lines supposedly lifted from the letters. In the movie, where they have more liberty than on stage, sometimes the person would change costume mid-sentence, while standing in the same room. Oddly disturbing, but there was a reason for it, and it worked in its own way. They may have been based on real letters, or maybe not. Still, I don't think Love Letters could have been written without the author's intimate knowledge of that type of relationship.


  3. #3

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    Hi Russ,

    With some novels, a desire for realism depends on possibilities (even though they may not be wholly scientific facts) such as science fiction, or historical novels where authors take a bit of history and embellish as if they were there. And then there are the fantasy writers who invent whole worlds. Even though they are pure fiction, they must be written in a way that allows the reader to bond with the characters and fictional world as if it were real and factual.

    By building personalities in characters, fiction writers do borrow from real life people. Otherwise, how could they define emotions? Fiction writers are always dipping into their own life experiences and every day observations to bring a sense of realism to their work. Many express their own feelings and values through their characters.

    To say fiction should be based on fact sounds like an oxymoron to me. It's like saying the silence was so loud I had to cover my ears. Fiction may be based on reality, but to claim it should be based on facts just isn't plausible. Imagination rules in fiction. Facts rule in non fiction.

    Regards, Kaz

  4. #4
    Glen T. Brock

    Re: Truth in Fiction


    Ever heard of the fourth R?

    The three Rs are Readin' and Rittin' and 'rithmetic.

    The fourth R is the most important. It's REASON.
    The truth in fiction is logic. Whatever the preposition of the story, to be believable it must be logical. That works in virtually every genre. If the story doesn't make sense all the characterization, panache, and documentation will not be worth a can of beans. I have a pet phrase I use: "The biggest part of a lie is the truth."

    What of the perception of truth? When does the writer cross an invisable boundrey separating non fiction from fiction? Say an author writes a fictionalized account of the space program (The Right Stuff). The author takes pains to document the historical facts in detail and is accurate with the details to a fault. But the bulk of the work is fiction. He has invented the thoughts that were in Shepard's, Glenn's, and Grissom's minds. Is that it is a fictional but factual portrayal right? Remember the biggest part of a lie is the truth.

    What if somebody wrote a novel (Capricorn 3) where three appollo astronauts faked the trip to the moon. Let's say there was no question this was a science fiction novel. But, years later somebody presented evidence indicating that Capricorn 3 was based on an actual event. The trip to the moon was a fraud.

    What is the ethical responsiblities of the author to be authentic in portrayals, especially if they represent real people or real events? Or does it matter?

    Points to ponder.

  5. #5
    Keith Blount

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    Surely one of the greatest joys of fiction is that the best writers may make up every tiny detail without regard to fact and yet still tell a fundamental truth?

    Russ, thanks for the link, that was a fascinating interview. It's certainly food for thought. Personally, if I had read "Being Dead" (and it's on my long list of things I want to read), I think I would have been slightly disappointed that the parts about the insects eating the body had not been researched (the veracity of the "quivering" would have bothered me less, though no doubt would have piqued my interest). But what Crace says about this desire for fact and research being a very modern phenomena is poignant, I think. I study (and have taught) medieval literature, and whilst medieval writers fed off each others' work, verisimilitude was hardly their primary concern (though they *were* enthusiastic about showing off their learning), but this hardly detracts from Chaucer, Boccaccio et al. Modern readers - especially readers of literary fiction such as Crace writes - tend to like good chunks of fact in their fiction. It must be fun to take the critics in, though...


  6. #6
    Lisa Werth

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    There can be a lot of truthin fiction. Some choose to go the fiction route to protect the innocent, save themself from libel, and to retatin some privacy.
    It is said that many novels out there are inpsired by actual events,

  7. #7
    F Walter

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    When I finish a book, I like to think more than anything else that it all made sense to me.
    I like to think to myself.
    "Yeah that could actually happen!"

  8. #8
    Richard Fulgham

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    I'm sure you're all aware of the blockbuster Jack the Ripper book. The author claims the killer was an obscure artist and centers the action of the book on the supposedly documented movements & actions of that artist. Well, will the descendents of the artist/ripper have a law suit? Seeing as she and/or her publisher put $25 million into producing that book, I doubt if anyone is worried about settling a case of libel. As to it being a true book, I would say it is -- and therefore falls in the oxymoronish range of creative nonfiction.

  9. #9
    Richard Fulgham

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    I just read Gary Kessler's similar remarks about the Jack the Ripper book. Excuse me. I wish there was some way to erase a stupid response but I can find no way. As we said in the 3rd grade back in Georgia, "Dad gum it!" PS: Gary, thanks for the response about the 90 pages okay. Personally, I don't presmue anything is in the bag until it is in the bag. It's a guessing and waiting game, as it's always been.

  10. #10

    Re: Truth in Fiction

    I agree with Lisa on this. Even if something isn't "true," in a factual sense, there are elements of truth in everyday activity and speech and events that are bound to be told about in a fictional work, and in that sense, fiction is based on truth.

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