Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 4, 2013

Truth in Fiction

Last week I read a blog post about the history of women fighting in wars. This powerful post from Kameron Hurley talked specifically about how women fighters have been erased from history. Culturally, we never even THINK of women fighting in the Revolutionary War or Civil War. Yet, they did—and in many other wars besides.

Ms. Hurley spoke of how historical writers should explore the real narratives of history. This can deepen your writing and help you find interesting or overlooked facts and events of interest to help make your story unique. She also spoke of historical writers taking back history for women, and showing their contributions, thereby changing the cultural history we all believe. We see this same effort to take back history in minorities struggling to write their own valuable contributions back into history.

What struck me most about Ms. Hurley’s article, however, was how EASY it is to erase a people or segment of people from history. How easy it is to create a cultural norm where those missing people are not even noticed as missing. All it takes is a few authorities to state something as fact, and soon others join in and a new cultural “truth” is born. It is frighteningly easy to convince people of a fiction as fact, even to get them to question what they have seen with their own eyes. It made me wonder how many other historical “facts” that we “know” are in fact fictions spun by those in power at the time to create a narrative they were comfortable with.

While it is easy to see where researching history and rewriting the narrative truths can be used by historical writers, and even how knowing the truth of the present impacts the writers of contemporary fiction, how does this influence the rest of us? Do we even have to worry about relaying truth in our fiction?

The answer is that we all write about human truths in our work, even if we are writing science fiction or fantasy. We can all explore truths that have been hidden or facts that have been erased within our own genre, giving voice to voices long lost.

Even more basic than that, we all must write our own personal truth. We need to speak to the point of view and worldview we live, we see. Our truth will not be the same as someone else’s, because we took different roads to get where we are. By sharing our worldview, we are placing ourselves in the historical narrative—going on record by revealing how we saw the world at the specific time and place we lived. By writing our truth, we are giving voice to others who have none, and we are leaving our voice to be heard in the future.

By sharing our worldview, we help ensure that our slice of history will not be overlooked, forgotten, erased. We help ensure that our voice is part of the cultural narrative. We help ensure future generations know the truths we lived, not just the history as written by the powerful.

In fact, fiction can be one of the most powerful weapons of truth that exists.

So what do you think about truth in fiction?


  1. Personal truths in fiction make the world interesting and soulful, and thankfully not everyone sees the world in an identical way.


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