29 June 2011

Honesty in writing

In writing circles you hear a lot about honesty in your writing. It's something that perplexes me and yet in another way I understand it. I'm not sure I've acheived it in all I write yet.

I know they mean sincerity and not forcing things into the story that don't belong just because you want to talk about them subtly. The story needs to be real and hang together in its own storyline skin. I know what they mean and I know when I read something that doesn't follow this rule.

In fiction, however, you're always making it up. I haven't killed anyone (yet) but I make up stories where people get killed. In fact, the tradition I was raised in makes it hard for me -- being true to my own self -- to even put a swear word in a bad guy's mouth. But the bad guy would say the word. It's just that I wouldn't.

I also cry out to God at the slightest hint of challenge or distress. If I was "honest" literally all my characters would do this too. Instead, I must listen to the character and the story and be true to that story as it germinates in my brain. It's hard not to redirect based on something I can hear my mom saying, or my friends saying.

I'm reading a rather fresh tongue in cheek travelogue. I know at times the author has added to the story and yet it is truly in his own voice. I can feel that. It inspires me to try my hand at some bits of honest nonfiction. Okay, if I'm really honest, it would be sarcastic nonfiction.