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Writing about Truth in Writing

The Human Truths in Writing Fiction

Writing is a challenging activity, especially if it is fiction. Too many times you see published writing that is stilted, that does not feel authentic. I have had friends confess to me that though they know what they are writing about, have been where the protagonist is supposed to go, their writing lacks flow.

This is possibly because they are too close to what they are trying to write about, and are not ready and willing to revisit the pain, anger, or fright buried in that experience.

I have started reading the book “Fast Fiction” by Roberta Allen, a creative writing teacher who recommends speed-writing and these lines struck a chord:

“As a writer, you owe it to yourself to tell the truth. Writing is a process of self-exposure, a process of telling what you know so others can share in your “humanness”. It is not enough to tell half-truths. If you are to create an experience in the reader, you must first create that experience in yourself”.

Writing in a way is an act of stripping, stripping in public, and that can be frightening. Writers find their way around it through disguising themselves, through using the experiences of others, and creating characters who are shadow-real.

Roberta goes on to say: “There is no energy in reproducing life. Stories are not imitations of reality. They create new realities.”

And she gives you the permission to take facts, give them your own interpretations and a new wardrobe, and turn them into universal truths:

“When stories ring true, we feel those stories, sometimes deeply. For the writer and the reader, stories happen in the mind. When you are writing, you must give yourself the freedom to make up the truth.”

This comes pretty naturally to me. In my youth, I’ve been guilty of embellishing facts in letters and e-mails, not only in order to make them more interesting, but also to say something on a different level, not merely the factual. And I’ve never called it “invention”, I have leaned more towards “discovery”!

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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