Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Distorting Truth

I've been thinking of giving a copy of one of my books to a therapist who is working with our ill family member, to give her an idea of what said family member was like decades ago. Except, of course, she wasn't like the woman I wrote about in this way and that way and a couple of other ways. So what would I say to the therapist when I give her the book? "Except for A,B,C, and D you can see what she was like back in her thirties, but she wasn't really like that a couple of decades later"?

I just read this post by Karen Russell at The Orion Blog. Russell is the author of Swamplandia, which I've been thinking about reading because it's an adult book with a child main character, and I'm always interested in how that happens. What's the difference between an adult book with a child main character and a children's book?

But that's not the point today.

Russell begins her post with Whenever I’m asked about the ratio of the real to the fantastic in my work, I will shamelessly plagiarize Flannery O’Connor, who said, “The truth is not distorted here, but rather a distortion is used to get at truth.” I struggle with this whole idea of "the truth" of fiction. I'm more interested in theme and story then some concept of the truth of fiction. But I like this idea of distorting the truth of a writer's experience to support theme and story.

So perhaps I will give the book to the therapist with a note that the reality of our lives was distorted to support the story.


MotherReader said...

I'm dying to write a book using my family, but I feel certain that it would be considered unrealistic. Truth is often stranger than fiction.

I like the quote about truth and distortion. I'll have to keep that in mind...

Gail Gauthier said...

I often will witness something in my family or in town or hear about something going on involving my husband's job and realize that if I used that situation or person in a book, no one would believe it could happen. With fiction you almost have to be realer than in real life.