Why are we impressed by true stories? Why do we punctuate anecdotes with the expression, “True story!”? As if that somehow makes it more impressive?
I don’t know why that’s true, but it is.
Cliches are cliches for a reason, and the coincidence, when it turns up in a novel, is considered a lazy storytelling device, but when it occurs in real life, somehow seems terribly impressive.
I’ve heard writers say that they’re paid to lie for a living. I don’t believe it. They say that the truth is stranger than fiction, but I don’t believe it.
I think that we’re paid to tell the truth. I think it’s our job to sift through all the muck and gore, and all the inconvenient and boring bits that make up the everyday mundane and find the nuggets of wonder that make the best stories.
When the first chapter of “Naming Names” was on the amateur writers’ website, Authonomy, I was commiserated with by someone or other every day, often several times a day. The readers believed that I was writing autobiographically. They longed for the book to be true. What they failed to realise was that it is the truth.
I stated quite clearly that “Naming Names” was a novel.
Some people would have preferred it to be a memoir, calling me out for writing such a terrible book if it wasn’t the truth. Honestly. Think about that for a moment. There are people in the world who would prefer that the horrendous things that happen in my novel had happened to someone in real life than that I had invented them for the purposes of exposing the existence of a kind of gross criminal psychology. How can that be?
The husband is one of the foremost writers of military SF on the planet. Nobody asks him if he’s ever been in s space-ship, but you’d be amazed how often he’s asked if he’s a veteran of the armed forces.
You see, when a writer does his job properly, the reader believes, and when the reader believes it is because the writer has found the truth and told it.