Updated: Dec 14, 2022
“And, if I am a timid friend to truth,
I fear my life may perish among those,
To whom these days shall be of ancient date.”
In my wildest imagination—which ranges far afield from any known reality—I don’t for a moment assign to my writing the timelessness according to Dante. I do find myself, like the poet, fretting any contribution I may make to the bleakness of future truth. That such worry is pointless doesn’t keep me from doing it. The truth will endure, it always does. If you ignore it long enough, the truth will eventually hit back—hard.
Liberty and freedom rest on the shoulders of truth. The blood of martyrs may water the tree of liberty, but the truth is the seed from which it sprang. From a publisher’s viewpoint, a writer’s job is to write books that will sell. But for the writer with an ounce of personal integrity, a writer’s job is, to tell the truth.
If that sounds strange coming from a fiction writer who admits that he weaves a web of falsehood, perhaps I should explain myself. The web, you see, maybe only in the author’s imagination—the silk employed in the spinning is reality. A fanciful story requires more truth than fiction. The plausibility of the writer’s words that lure the reader into the pages is grounded in the truth the reader knows.
It even involves some truth the reader does not know. The truth does not always jump up and slap you in the face. Real truth requires some digging to unearth it. Unless the writer is creating a new world of his own, this one cannot be ignored. Words, phrases, locations, history, and time must be true even though the events are not.
A writer may look out his window and see a child run by, and he/she thinks, what if a monster has just eaten the child’s family and only she has escaped? The writer can have fun with the monster. But the street, the time of year and that year’s place in history, the sun, and the moon, the words the girl uses—they must ring true.
More than that the crisis that has caught the heroine must be familiar to readers and fraught with real tensions they know. What’s this got to do with the likes of Dante? Just this, agenda has replaced truth in a great deal of modern fiction, television, and movies. It doesn’t quite ring true because it is selling something besides the story. If a writer is too timid about the truth that stands in contrast to this kind of work, the truth will fade away carrying minds with it.