Fiction and Non: How to Write True by Alison HodgsonPosted by arogers on May 10, 2012 in Blog | 1 comment
My nine year old daughter Eden is an accomplished writer. When she was in Kindergarten she wrote a book for her dad—a memoir—as a gift for Father’s Day. The plan was for it to be forty pages (each page being a chapter) but she settled for twelve, I believe. She went on to write many more books all of which I stacked on top of the bookcase in the hall outside our bedroom. We had a house fire a couple years ago and I have wished, more than once, that I grabbed those precious books when the alarms sounded and I walked right past the shelf.
The other day I told Eden that someone had asked me to write a short account of the fire but I was having trouble.
She sat up straight. “You need to write her back and tell her (the editor) that it’s impossible; it’s going to be long or nothing at all. It’s impossible for it to be short. I was going to write a book about it but I decided not to because it’s too long.”
“You were going to write a book about the fire? When?” I said.
“In second grade.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Cuz in a book you have to write your feelings and all that stuff, but in a story you don’t have to. It’s just a story, such as: ’Henry held the frog. Henry thought the frog felt nasty.’ That’s random, but it’s something.”
I agreed. It was.
“In a story,” she continued, “you don’t have to say, ‘But I was really scared.’
As her mother this made me tear up. As a fellow writer it caused me to think. Clearly her definition of a book is non-fiction writing and her idea of a story is fiction, but I disagree with her assessment.
Whatever you write you need to write it true. Whether the point of view is your own, in an essay or a book of non-fiction, or a character’s in a short story and a novel, I had better believe it and you.
Ironically, an entirely made up story can read truer than a non-fiction book that is completely factual.
If we want readers to connect with our work, we need go to deep places and we have to find the words to say the very things we might be too afraid to speak out loud.
What do you think?
Read more from Alison at her blog, Older Than Jesus.