Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

Which is Easier, Truth or Fiction? (08/15/04)



Featured writer: Anne Silber



Contributors this month:
Anne Silber
Arlene L. Mandell
Betty Winslow
D.Jayhne Wilson Edwards
Lizzie Hannon
Marlene Cullen
William Zissner
Zoe Spiedel


Which is easier, truth or fiction?

by Anne Silber

For me, it's always been fiction. When I write fiction, I create the truth of the story. I can make it as complex or transparent as I wish. Trying to write from that old saw, " truth is stranger than fiction", I often find myself attempting to sort out whose version of the truth to present, or even if there is any truth to tell. What starts out as seemingly simple twists into a labyrinth of paths claiming to lead to the truth, but actually getting lost in the maze.

When I begin writing fiction, I often don't know how the story will end. I let the characters develop according to their own logic, and I am amazed by where their logic takes them at times. The truth, in such instances, may be oblique, many-faceted, or even never come out, with only hints to the reader. I like it that way. Life is like that, and I like my art to be true to life.

Writing non-fiction, on the other hand, can be fascinating to the writer because with careful research, it's all there, cut and dried, footnotes to back up the research, and an audience that may be larger than the fiction market. Alas, to me, it just isn't fun. If I'm not creating, I'm not happy.

So be it. I bow the knee to writers of truth, for the world needs truth, however hard to swallow, and we get precious little of it!

Anne Silber lives in Colorado Springs , Colorado , with her cat, Missy. She has published one novel, and is working on a collection of stories, another novel, and her own autobiography. www.annesilber.net

Which is easier, truth or fiction?

  by Anne Silber

For me, it's always been fiction. When I write fiction, I create the truth of the story. I can make it as complex or transparent as I wish. Trying to write from that old saw, " truth is stranger than fiction", I often find myself attempting to sort out whose version of the truth to present, or even if there is any truth to tell. What starts out as seemingly simple twists into a labyrinth of paths claiming to lead to the truth, but actually getting lost in the maze.

When I begin writing fiction, I often don't know how the story will end. I let the characters develop according to their own logic, and I am amazed by where their logic takes them at times. The truth, in such instances, may be oblique, many-faceted, or even never come out, with only hints to the reader. I like it that way. Life is like that, and I like my art to be true to life.

Writing non-fiction, on the other hand, can be fascinating to the writer because with careful research, it's all there, cut and dried, footnotes to back up the research, and an audience that may be larger than the fiction market. Alas, to me, it just isn't fun. If I'm not creating, I'm not happy.

So be it. I bow the knee to writers of truth, for the world needs truth, however hard to swallow, and we get precious little of it!

Anne Silber lives in Colorado Springs , Colorado , with her cat, Missy. She has published one novel, and is working on a collection of stories, another novel, and her own autobiography. www.annesilber.net

Which is easier, Truth or Fiction.

  by Arlene L. Mandell

Fiction, of course! Unless you aspire to be one of those memoir writers who gathers three generations of dirty laundry moldering in your dank basement and drags the whole disreputable, scandalous mess into the town square to hang on the communal clothesline.

Writing fiction, you can hide your bizarre experiences and nasty habits while at the same time revealing, exploiting and exaggerating them. If your name is Susan, for example, just create a fictional character name like Suki, which is more exotic. Give her your luminous green eyes and jet black hair, but make her an Austrian yoga instructor instead of a typical Michigan soccer mom. Let Suki have an acrobatic sexual liaison on a motorcycle with a man sporting 27 tattoos...instead of a modestly passionate meeting in a Motel Six with the vice principal of your children's elementary school. Let Suki do everything you did plus everything you wish you had done.

So sinful. So satisfying.

Arlene L. Mandell (a/k/a Alexandra Lee) lives her official life in Santa Rosa where she is an exemplary citizen.

Betty Winslow



I agree. Besides, ease is overrated. It isn't the greenhouse plant, pampered and watered, that withstands the storms when they come. It's the tree perched on the edge of a cliff, with its branches stretched out against wind and rain and its roots clenched in a death grip on the surrounding rock, that survives and thrives, year after year. Life isn't easy, but I want to hang on, surviving and thriving through the storms that come. And if life is hard, why should writing about it be any different?

Betty Winslow, perched on the edge of a cliff in Bowling Green , Ohio .

WHICH IS EASIER, TRUTH OR FICTION?

  by D.Jayhne Wilson Edwards

TRUTH, by all means.

I enjoy the challenge of taking an event from real life and linking it with, perhaps, another life happening. Then I can culminate my piece with a masterful summation, a pithy observation, or a humorous touch. Of course, sometimes my "culmination" may be ever-so-slightly fictional, but I still can't fathom what it is that appeals, to avid fiction writers, about making up stuff.

I have never been overly proud of my own forays into pure fiction, which have leaned heavily toward a short story in which I, myself, was an alien, and another in which I was kidnapped by some--aliens, that is.

If I'm going to get brave and try again, maybe I should change subjects!

D.Jayhne, who expects to live in Santa Rosa , Calif. , for the rest of her life, is currently trying to learn more about writing titles.

Which is easier, truth or fiction?

  by Lizzie Hannon

ou ask a metaphysical question, dare us to take a leap, a look, follow a logic that is lodged between right brain and the left. First let's tackle the quarterback, the word that carries the weight of this answer, "easier." Knock that player down, have it stand without padding, naked, "easy.

Get up at five a.m. to write. "Easy" to think much harder to do. "Easy" is that line in the sand set by the wind. One day hard like granite to imagine ever accomplishing anything of worth the next words are cookie dough in my hands ready to be baked, shared.

What I find is story requires both, be it fiction, compressed story i.e. poetry and the magician of them all creative non -fiction. All require you to pull everything from your hat, rabbits and scars. My "telling" even on the days with tears, is "easy" when I have digested some nutritional quality of the idea or experience. It is working me, fanning out to the bone and the blood, pumping back to the heart, up, up, up to the brain for the all too ephemeral " EUREKA " moment. I don't know what I'm saying until it's said; my subconscious by-passing the critic, the judge the conscious mind which is forever forming opinions such as "easy" and "hard, hard, hard."

The tick of a second changes "truth." One minute betrayal is still English Bitters on my tongue, the next "presto, chango" the narrator of whatever I am writing, even memoir, falls into bitter, remembers every time bitter tortured my tongue and it becomes something for the writer to feast on. Tomorrow, cruising down 101, a story comes roaring up to my bumper, it honks its horn, it says, " you're not done baby, you got something more to say ." You notice the license plate, "Bit-her." What am I saying…truth or fiction, easy or hard? Yes, yes, yes and sometimes no!

Lizzie Hannon is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist (CCHT) and writer in Santa Rosa , CA . To date her poems, personal essays and flash-fiction can be found in six anthologies. All this information is more or less “true!”

Marlene Cullen



As a writer whose field of expertise is list making (to-do lists, grocery lists and lists of people to call), you would think I would say truth is easier to write than fiction. And, in fact, it probably is. But the question that I want to answer is, which is more fun to write?

Ah, sweet bliss, deep breath in and exhale languorously. With fiction I can forget about Calgon. I carry myself away to the mountains of Colorado , or a run-down hell-hole in Nevada , or a luxurious spa in Hawaii . As a writer, dabbling in the world of make-believe I can experience notorious highs through my fictional alter-ego. I can be a murderess and get away with it, or I can indulge in sweet sensations without remorse or fears of consequences.

With fiction I get to soar, to fly, to explore with a safety net. I get to undo the harness of everyday life and just be. I am like an actor on stage. I vary my roles, I try on different personas. I reinvent myself without injury. I embrace whatever catches my attention and am delighted by whatever whim carries me away.

Ah, sweet fiction. Yes.

Marlene Cullen practices the art of fiction in Petaluma , California

William Zissner



Of course, truth is easier - easier to record, at any rate, requiring only a good memory, an honest heart, and willing hands. To record truth with style and imagination, in words that tell the story exactly as it needs to be told, with no words extra or missing? Well, that's different. And that's what the question actually boils down to, isn't it? Is it ever easy to tell any kind of story (truth or fiction) in such a way that a reader is swept off her feet and hangs on for dear life, reading to the very end and then coming up with an "Oh, yeah!" and a heartfelt sigh? No.

William Zissner, author of On Writing Well , once said, "Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this as a
consolation in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do."


Zoe Spiedel



It's important to know the difference, truth versus fiction. There's the initial, obvious difference but it goes deeper than real and fake. It goes way beyond that. Neither is wrong, certain times call for one or the other, truth or lies. Are your great-grandparents really buried under the field? Yes, solemnly, sternly - no smiling. Whoa, they say in awe, in unison. And I'm queen, or at least princess. Okay, duchess.

Alice 's adventure never would have been made into a book if everyone in Wonderland had told her the truth about where she was. It's just no fun to always live in reality. Sometimes, some people are just so rigid and stuck in their ways - fork, knife, spoon - never reversed - napkin folded like swan. It's more interesting to mix things up with a wooden spoon of lies.


My wooden spoon of lies - ah, yes. You and I, my precious, shaking up pea-brained worlds left and right. I don't remember a time when I didn't lie. Maybe there has not been one day in my life when I didn't tell at least one little, itsy bitsy lie. Is that bad? Does it make me an evil hearted person? Just means you're creative, Satan assures me. Phew, I was getting worried about that one. Imagine the world without lies. Oh, sure, Pollyanna would love it, but would true honesty benefit everyone? Being told you look fat, or sick, or tired, or frigid, or Republican, or that you're selfish, wicked, stupid or yellow-bellied - would hearing these things do any good for human kind? Maybe, but somehow I highly doubt it.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not promoting lies, I'm just defending them. Everyone deserves to have someone on her side. I'm not disapproving of the truth either.



Truth is a great many thing; gentle not being one of them. A delicate balance, a precise, strategic equation of bluffing and revealing wins the poker game. Cards up, eyes narrow, smug smiles around the table. No one knows if you've got something worthwhile, but you can intimidate him or her anyway. In your green, plastic visor and a cigar hanging out the side of your mouth, fiction creates itself, without trying, through smoke rings, through queens, twos, fours, and nines. The cards tell a story. No one has to tell the truth if they don't want to, and reality is truly a relative thing.

Zoe Spiedel lives and writes in Petaluma , Ca. She recently won first place in the Youth Category for Sebastopol Center for the Arts writing competition. You may reach her at dancinblond@yahoo.com .

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. From 2000—2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devil’s-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so he’d know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. David’s dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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