Finding the Truth in Lies
I believe that one of the most important elements in any story is the portrayal of the truth. I’ve written before on the importance of stories being believable, but beyond that I believe that a good story must always be true. Now some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Neal, no fantasy stories are true… that’s why they are called fantasy stories,” and technically you would be right. Technically. But there is so much more to it than just that; a story can be true even if its facts are made up. Stories give us glimpses of life outside of ourselves, and life outside of ourselves and our perspective is a reality which we’d do well not to ignore. It is because fantasy stories (and really any story to a certain extent) teach us real lessons and share real truths about life that I feel I can honestly tell you that every fantasy story is true to some extent. In the words of Patrick Rothfuss, “all stories are true, but some actually happened.”
It is important to remember, when discussing truth, the importance of falsehood in fantasy writing as well. My favorite authors tend to reveal the truth slowly, through intentional lies. They manipulate the truth in such a way that they are always telling it to you, but that you never fully see it until they want you to. Granted, sometimes an author will want you to see the full truth early on in the story in order that you may better understand something about it, and this can often be just as effective as what my preferred authors do. The truth is that every story is different and every author has a slightly different way of doing things, but they are all intentionally portraying the information in a certain way, the way they want you to understand the story. In my own writing, limited as it may be, I always try to have one clear idea that motivates any story, and though I may never explicitly state that idea, I try to weave it into nearly every major plot development, or least portray something that will lead to that idea in each plot development. But this is just me, I would encourage you to try different thing. When you write because you like writing it no longer matters if is a “successful” piece.