Friday, 5 August 2016

Telling the Truth in Fiction

Someone once told me I should write Historical Fiction so I could write the "truth" and tell people "how it really was" back in whatever period they were talking about.

I wish I could say this individual had good intentions, but I know the real reason they suggested it. It was to preach and convert. This person was angry about a lot of things, but they got the intent of stories completely wrong.

I grew up around a television station called YTV. For those that don't know, in the late 1980s through the late 1990s, YTV was the station for kids in Canada. They aired programs as varied as the 1960s Batman show, Rocky & Bullwinkle, the 90s Spider-Man show, Dragon Ball, Samurai Pizza Cats, Are You Afraid of the Dark, Beast Wars (called Beasties), ReBoot, Rocko's Modern Life, and all sorts of cartoons from around the world and different eras.

Other things I watched and read included The Hobbit, The Outsiders, action movies out the wazoo, and the Disney Afternoon. That's not even including things like MacGyver I mostly saw in syndication.

What I'm saying is that what I learned seeing all those shows as a kid, is very different than what this person was suggesting I write.

The important part of these stories was the sense of wonder I got from them, and how they inspired both my imagination and my love of fiction. I could never warp these stories for something as banal as scoring points or annoying the "right" people. Stories are about more than that.

Unfortunately, YTV is no longer that station it once was. It has since become the Canadian wing of modern Nickelodeon, PC shows with obnoxious humor, and little for the family to sit around and enjoy. It's character is all but gone.

But now that there's a whole indie world out there for authors and creators to enjoy, it doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter what the networks, publishers, or gatekeepers want, because they are completely out of touch and have been for a long time. This abysmal Summer Movie Season should be the clue that Hollywood is lost at sea.

You want to "tell the truth", then tell stories. Tell the sort of stories that inspired you in the first place. Tell the sorts of stories you always wanted to see, but didn't. Tell the sorts of stories nobody tells anymore. Tell stories nobody wants to tell. That's why you wanted to tell them in the first place, right?

You don't need to become a schoolmarm to be a storyteller. Homer wasn't. Shakespeare wasn't. Tolkien wasn't.

And yet they all told tales that have stood the test of time.

Storytelling isn't about teaching, it's about wonder. Save your lectures for the classroom, and remember what it was like to be a child. Remember that same child who was blown away by that one story. That's who you're really writing for.

That's how you tell the truth with stories.


Note: In unrelated news, author Brian Niemeier has been shadow-banned by Twitter for no discernible reason. Check out his site and his works, if you have the time.

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