Half Truths

We’ve all heard half truths about writing in our lives. Here’s a few:

half truth

Yiddish Proverb

Half truth #1:

 You have to live a wild, exciting life before you can write.You have to experience life to the fullest in order to write.

    If this were true we  wouldn’t have heard from Jane Austin or the Bronte sisters.  They lived very sheltered lives.

Tom Clancy was an insurance agent with a part time hobby of writing about military hardware.

William Carlos Williams was a small town doctor.

In one way the statement to live life to the fullest is correct.  Great artists knew their own selves very well.  They lived an intense internal life.  While Jane Austen might not have ventured far beyond her father’s Hampshire vicarage, she knew her own heart well.

Half Truth #2

Show, don’t tell.

There’s a story about the writer who always showed and never told.   No one could ever figure out what his stories meant.  Narration is necessary for fiction.  About 20 percent of fiction is narration.half truth

Half Truth #3

You can learn to write by going to creative writing classes and by reading books about writing.

No.  You learn to write by writing.

Half Truth #4

Write what you know.

How could Ursula K. LeGuin write about life on other planets?  How did Jean Auel write about prehistoric times?  How does a woman write about a man?  How do novelists write about Australia if they’ve never been there?

Of course the writer must research as much as possible, but ultimately fiction comes from inside the writer.  Write about what you do know.

Half Truth #5.

Genre fiction is poorly written tripe.  Romances are especially bad.romance novel

             Some genre fiction is very creative, with good characterizations and good plots.  Remember that what we call literature today was often yesterday’s genre fiction.  (Dickens wrote magazine installments.  Shakespeare wrote plays for the people.)

Images courtesy of:

  • fepancini.tumblr.com
  • brianmaciver.blogspot.com
  • inadreambeyond.blogspot.com

15 responses to “Half Truths

  1. I really HEARD the part about writer’s writing. It will be a resolution in the new year to write even just a journal entry each day. I moved all the furniture out of my bedroom in prep for a reno and found a letter I had written my younger son in 2001! It was well written, but more than that, it was like a piece of history. He had read it, crumpled it up and for some reason I kept it. I’ve never been a journal person unless something terrible happens. I also agree that it is the everyday happenings in life that make for a good story. Thanks for the prompts. Delora

  2. This is so good, Ed. I’m glad you raised the Show, don’t tell. This dictum has done a lot of damage to aspiring writers. Biggest problem I’ve seen is that writers start using dialogue instead of narration, thinking that a dialogue scene is Showing. Thus we get things like:

    “What was that?”
    “It sounds like someon knocking on the front door.”
    “Perhaps we should go and see.”

    instead of:

    Someone was knocking on the front foor.

    Thanks again,

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