WRITING FICTION CAN feel so silly, much like talking to oneself (which I happen to often do). You have these passengers in your head who you talk with and listen to, and you shape their lives on a page, sometimes in worlds that don’t even exist, and for what? How could their make-believe stories hold more value than straight information, the facts about gravity and how corn grows and what makes up the human eyeball, particularly when those make-believe stories leave you, in a sense, empty-handed?
But that’s not quite true about the make-believe stories. Metaphors and storytelling have formed a great part of human culture since its existence, as stories offer a way to interpret our lives and what happens to us, and to communicate truth in a digestible form. Even now in our day-to-day we use them: to remember a passed loved one and find some meaning in their loss; to instruct our children on why it’s good to share with friends or where babies come from. Like a side-splitting punchline, funny for the sliver of truth caught in its mouth, stories can drive a message when logic and reasoning fail.
Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth. // Albert Camus
The greatest plots, the ones that rope us in and tug on us, are nestled in some truth: the battle of good versus evil, the fight for love, the tragedy of life, the inner search to find who we are and what we’re made of. They’ve all been worked over, not just in fiction, but in film and music and art, and still they lure us with their hooks to warn us with the truth or reassure us with it, to stir us to some action or help us find purpose in difficulty. All explore those things that bonds us as humans; all leave us sitting back and thinking, and if the story is really good, it floats with us for a while, resting on our shoulders and changing the lenses through which we see the world.
Science and fiction both begin with similar questions: What if? Why? How does it all work? But they focus on different areas of life on earth. // Margaret Atwood
I suppose people will go on their ways convinced fiction is a waste of time and believing truth only comes from textbooks. And that is perfectly fine. My intention is not to rip people of their convictions, only to encourage those who have ever doubted the worth of their craft, watching their siblings and friends scurry around emergency rooms or juggle sales calls while they scrawl poems and song lyrics into a Lisa Frank notebook. I also don’t want to appear as suggesting that only creative types hold the secret to life and truth and screw everyone else, because that’s not right either. Besides, creativity doesn’t always look like an obscure piece of art or a Hemingwayesque short story; sometimes it looks more like the proper nutrient balance for growing corn or a corneal repair. As creatively formed beings, we can’t help that our Creator’s artistry flows out of us, and it only makes sense for it to lead us somewhere as worthy as truth.
I’ll leave you with this: if you have a fictional passenger riding shotgun in your head, you might try lending an ear; she could just be the little piece of truth you’re tasked to write down.
NOW TELL ME: Do you think fiction helps communicate truth? How do you find value in what you do? Comment below!