The answer to the above question is – possibly. I used to think that writing fiction would be a good defense against such a state of affairs. My previous writing had been in the realm of academia. At a certain level, (peer-reviewed journals) even academics have to take a stand – albeit one that can be backed up in the literature or with one’s own research findings. I put myself out there on more than one occasion. When asked, in my oral thesis defense, how I would respond to the criticism that being a qualitative researcher meant I lacked objectivity, I responded that quantitative researchers are not objective either. Objectivity in any type of research is a myth. Now that was taking a firm stand, and it was one that many did not appreciate.
I’ll just fast forward to the life of a fiction writer. Let us first define the word, fiction.
Prose literature, especially short stories and novels, about imaginary events and people. Invention or fabrication as opposed to fact.
Synonyms: figment, invention, fabrication
That would appear to say all that needs saying about fiction, but not so fast. Here is a conversation that I had the other day.
Book recipient (suitable excitement on his/her face) Is it a true story?
Me: No, it is a work of fiction.
Book recipient (not in the least daunted) Yes of course but is it true fiction?
The term “true fiction” would appear to be an oxymoron.
I recently joined a fascinating discussion string on the Alliance of Independent Authors (members only) Facebook page. It related to how the friends and family of an author might view a work of his or her fiction. A few people shared having lost friends and angered family members because of what they had written. A fictional character may knock on a door to close to home. Perhaps the situations that the writer makes the characters endure are unacceptable. Maybe a friend or family member sees something familiar about a certain character and finds that a treasonable offence.
Authors must be free to explore a whole gamut of life situations without the fear that those close to them will lose sight of important realties. To write about a lifestyle or behaviour does not equal an endorsement, and the word fiction is synonymous with figment, invention and fabrication.
I had an enlightening experience at a social justice workshop years ago. In order to participate in a mock debate, we divided into two groups. One group had to speak in favour of the Gulf War. I found myself in that group. I took the exercise seriously and did a good job at the task assigned. I spent the entire weekend under attack for my stance on the Gulf War while enduring barely concealed looks of outrage. What part of mock debate did they not understand?
Later, when I taught communication skills at the undergrad level, there were often options for mock class debates. I never staged one. Words are powerful, and when wielded well they tend to stick – no matter the parameters of an exercise.
Is there truth in fiction? Yes, indeed – but it is the nature of that truth that needs to be explored. In a good work of fiction, I would expect to find a truth or two about human emotions, and most importantly, a truth about myself as I explore my own reactions to the story. I do not expect to find the author’s life story.