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Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Photo by Ivan Obolensky

Many are familiar with the phrase: “Truth is stranger than fiction…” but are unfamiliar with what follows, or who wrote it.

The full quote is:

 “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

The words are from Mark Twain’s, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World.

One of the difficulties that a writer faces is that fiction has to be credible in order to be believed, even if it’s fiction. Pushed too far, and what is written is dismissed.

The other side of that coin is that when I was growing up, I often related something that happened only to have it labelled, at best, a tall tale; or a lie, at worst. It was almost a hallmark with me and the bane of my early existence.

(Okay, I may have exaggerated a thing or two.)

Nonetheless this turned out to be a blessing in my later years. It explains why and how I write.

Taking this a step further, the Fiction writer is hobbled by what the reader thinks is possible, and what the writer conceives that is. The danger is that this is only a stone’s throw from writing what the writer thinks the reader wants to read. Once that line of thinking starts, he, or she, sounds like everybody else.

This is why good fiction is difficult to write. One must tread the finest of lines between plausibility on the one side and implausibility on the other.

Note the photograph above. This bird is real, and the photo unretouched.

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