Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guest Post: Fiction IS Truth

Today's guest post comes from J.A. Beard, a fellow author who is currently on a book tour through Positively Publishing. Make sure you check out his other posts throughout the week at my fellow book tour hosts' websites.

A novel is fiction. To consume fiction is to consume concentrated untruth. It’s an interesting idea when you think about it. In general, most societies function with the implicit idea that people should generally be truthful when dealing with each other. How then can the consumption of well-constructed falsehoods benefit society?

I’ve met more than a few people who claim that fiction doesn’t actually benefit society or who see no point in reading fiction. They only have time for “truth” and not tales filled with lies, clever or not. Such thoughts are cross-cultural and ancient. There’s even a scene in the 11th-century Japanese novel The Tale of Genji where a young woman has to defend her enjoyment of fiction from the insults of the main character.

Of course, many books are read for nothing more than simple entertainment. I certainly know that motivates a lot of my fiction reading. There’s nothing wrong, after all, with just wanting to relax and absorb an enthralling tale or two. If anything, in this hyper-connected world of twenty-four hour news and constant change, it almost seems like we all should spend a bit more time relaxing and just absorbing a bit of entertaining untruth.

I’ll take it a step further and defend fiction as a source of truth. We live our existences as defined by our memories and interpretations of experiences. No matter how we fancy ourselves objective judges of reality, we are blinded by our own biases. Even if we were totally objective recorders of reality, we’d still be limited by our perceptions. Consider the importance of camera angle in a movie or television program. The camera relays only what it captures. It doesn’t interpret the information, but an ill-placed (or well-placed) camera can make all the difference in the world how a viewer perceives something.

Fiction offers us something similar to those camera angles. It allows us to see one interpretation of a set of experiences through others. While the characters provide us points-of-view, interpretations, and different ways to experience life, the crafting of the work itself also reflects a certain point of view and choices by the author. The author passes along their own truth, of sorts. In reading stories, we learn something about how other people perceive the fundamental aspects of life: love, friendship, death, humor, metaphysics, and so on.

Even if an author tries to not inject their own world-view into a work, the choices they make in creating a story to please an audience still communicate something about how they perceive society. Indeed, many attempts at censorship and other related controversies concerning novels have focused on what sorts of messages, what sorts of truths if you will, they threaten to pass along into a “vulnerable” society.

So, in reading fiction, we gain new perspectives, and these new perspectives can help us perhaps get just a bit closer to objective truth.

J.A. Beard likes to describe himself as a restless soul married to an equally restless soul. His two children are too young yet to discuss whether or not they are restless souls, but he’s betting on it. He likes to call himself the Pie Master, yet is too cowardly to prove his skills in an actual baking competition. So, really, he’s merely a Potential Pie Master.

While writing is one of his great passions, science is another, and when he’s not writing or worrying about baking, he’s working on the completion of his PhD in microbiology.
He blogs at riftwatcher.blogspot.com and is on Twitter as @jabeard_rf.

His current release, a young adult urban fantasy, THE EMERALD CITY, can be enjoyed for simple entertainment or used to expand your personal perspective on life. Your call.


  1. Fiction gives us a way to make sense out of life; to find closure and meaning, in a way that "truth" often doesn't provide. Even if one reads merely for entertainment, there's value. Then again, I'm biased. Thanks for the insight!

  2. Thanks for reading and your own thoughts on this, Jennette.

    I was inspired to write this after a discussion came up inn my writing group about this topic. Some big-wig cultural intellectual had said in an interview he doesn't waste his time with fiction or something to that effect, and so we [fiction writers] all started discussing if, in the long run, our work was indeed a "waste of time."

  3. Huge thanks to J.A. for stopping by!

  4. Whatever your view on "fiction," letting your mind wander down a path that someone else created is never a bad thing. I agree that seeing the world from someone else's point of view or from a different angle, it nothing short of brilliant. Everyone should be so receptive to being as open-minded as fiction readers.

    Thanks for the lovely post.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. Thanks for your thoughts, Patricia.


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