There's truth in fiction. It gives a story impact. But there's the dilemma all writers face--how much truth do you use and how much do you make up? When does the truth become dull preaching?
So, how do you balance the duty a writer has to the truth against the desire to write a salable book that an editor will love and a reader buys? And, lets face it, what about writing the book you want to write? What about just writing that fantasy book that's all about feeling good and not looking at truths? What about a writer's obligation to the reader to produce a good story?
Having seen the movie An Inconvenient Truth, I've been thinking about happy endings. And the need to struggle for them. I've also been thinking about how a lot of folks don't want to see this movie, or think about the fact that we're putting seventy million tons of global warming pollution in the air, and how selling a book may not be an issue in ten years. Things like getting food and water from a desert may matter more.
I've also been thinking about how fiction can highlight our capacity for change. Change is closing the hole in the ozone. Change started cleaning up the air in LA. So maybe it's time not to keep talking about if we're changing our world, so much as maybe recognizing that we do, and just looking at how to make that change for the better.
If you write one page a day, you can have a book done in a year. What if you make one small change in your life every month or every week: switch to energy efficient light bulbs, start buying local produce, opt to buy carbon credits to offset travel, take one less drive every week, carry a canvas bag for quick shopping trips so you don't use plastic ones? Small things, but they can have that same impact of one page a day. And if enough people start thinking and doing...
And what if we start writing characters who think about these things? What if the heroine recycles her trash? What if the hero wonders if his son will have a world that's lost polar ice caps? Do we create the world we want in fiction--can we create a consciousness that can change the world? Shouldn't we at least think and talk about these things?
Fiction is about dramatizing the truth so it can punch home. It's about crafting compelling characters and story, but it's also about a writer who has to get out that story written. The publishing business is about making money, but we write for more than money (at least I hope we do--I really hope that trees die with good reasons).
But I'm still wondering about the balance of truth and fiction--about living in a world that may be about to topple over and out of that, and about what I'm doing to keep my balance as a writer, as a person, as someone who cares. I write because the truth matters. And I wonder about those who want to close their eyes and ears, who don't want to discuss, or look, or question.
Can fiction--can our fiction--shake up the world a little? Make things matter? Shouldn't art be a little disturbing. Shouldn't fiction sometimes be just as inconvenient as truth?