Did you know there are two types of truth in fiction?
Whatever stories we write include statements about the world, whether or not we want them to. Brilliant authors use theme to their advantage; they use story as a means to tell others about poverty, slavery, love, and courage. Less attuned authors, on the other hand, might imply messages unintentionally. Stephenie Meyer, for example, has been ridiculed for presenting females as weak and dependent, although she never meant to. While I like Twilight, some of the arguments are valid.
Writers, like other artists, use fiction to tell truths.
“It is not our abilities that show us what we truly are, but our choices,” “Sometimes it is harder to follow than it is to lead,” “to hurt is as human as to breathe,” “Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life,” “It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart,” are all truths writers have penned.
But there are different kinds of truths. Some truths are steady and consistent while others are more subjective or relative. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west is always true (unless you’re writing a crazy sci-fi novel). The fact I’m wearing a red shirt is true right now, but won’t be tomorrow.
When it comes to the arts, I see two kinds of truths: the Absolute Truth and the worldly truth. (Please note that when I say “worldly” I mean “of the world” without the “wicked” connotation.) The Absolute Truth is comprised of eternal, ideal teachings—love conquers all, be true to yourself, never give up—and presents us with how life should be. The worldly truth is comprised of teachings that hold true in the imperfect world we live in—feed and entertain a people to make them lose political power, sometimes the oppressed grow more ruthless than the oppressors—and presents us with how life is.
Both truths are important. Both truths are powerful. Lord of the Rings can inspire me to press on during trials just as effectively as The Hunger Games can provoke me to reevaluate our entertainment industry. Here are some points I use to define Absolute Truth and worldly truth, with some pictures for examples.
Good overcomes evil
Uplifts and encourages
Inspires others to be better
Employs shock value for the sake of shock value
I didn’t use anything literary for my example picture, but the image above is from a professional photo shoot. Intentional or not, the pictures from the shoot glamorizes domestic violence. Likewise, these pictures taken from a Glee photo shoot sexualize minors, and that fact is presented to us as “okay.” Deceptive stories breed damaging perspectives and strike at our humanity. They can often influence a people without them even noticing.
Whatever you write, be savvy about which of these categories you are tapping into. Certain genres lend themselves to certain categories. Fantasy often deals with Absolute Truth. Dystopian can be a great vehicle for worldly truth. Porn, in my opinion, delivers deception.Think about the message you are putting out into the world with your story. Your readers will be influenced by your work. Does your story tell of Absolute Truths or worldly truths? Make sure it doesn’t stem from deception. Strive to be aware and have control over what your story is saying.
So, in closing, do you prefer to explore Absolute Truth or worldly truths in your fiction? Or both?