Truth in writing is like a utopia for me; it is something I can imagine, can see clearly in my mind, but never reach. The idea of what is truthful is something that I have very strong opinions on, and which does, in many ways affect my writing, both fiction and non-fiction. I suppose the easiest way to sum my ideas up would be to say that as a concept, I do not believe truth can actually exist. Or, at least, not the complete truth. Every truth is an interpretation, something that has been slightly twisted, either consciously or sub-consciously by us, or by another person. The only truth is what is what we see, hear, feel, and touch in that moment. A moment that lasts for a fraction of a fraction of a second, and then it is over, and can never be wholly revisited. Perspective in itself is highly complicated and unreliable.
Perspective is never something that is easy, or straightforward, or sure. Perspective is like the candle that sits in the glass box, and sways above your head, in the dark, once the barbeque has burnt out. You can see the flame clearly. Can’t you? But then, you see, there are all these other flames; the reflection from all four sides of glass, the reflection from the metal edging, and the duller glint that it gives the smoke that is swirling around it, and in the cigarette smoke on your fingers.
Everything we see is upside down. It is up to our brain to right the image. A message is sent, jumping along our nerves, soaked in liquid and transferred to another nerve, and then into the plastacine that someone named brain. It is biological. It is scientific fact. Someone told me. And I told you, and you told your daughter, who told her brother-in-law, who told his nephew. And it became truth. But what if everything we see, in reality is actually the other way around?
Perspective is a matter for the individual. “Look inside yourself”, “tell me the truth”, “are you lying?” I don’t know. Am I? If I told you the ‘truth’, would you believe it? I can only tell you what I see. It might be upside down, it might be flat when you think it should be round, but I don’t know. And remember, even the things I say are not true, because they are not whole, and real. They are something I forgot, and then remembered moments, weeks, years later, when suddenly, I realised that that was when I, or you, or we, were, or thought, or happened.
And, so, to ask ‘can fiction be more truthful than non-fiction’, is, to me, a redundant point. How do we know what the ‘truth’ is?
Often, in fiction, it is easier to tell what we believe to be the truth, or even if we don’t believe it, it is what we accept as the truth. If we have a bad experience, or do, or say something that we are ashamed of, our brain automatically twists the truth, and contorts it, so that we are left with a memory of something that never happened. If we didn’t do that, we’d go insane. And yet, when we create our own characters, and put them into situations that, we claim, come directly from our imaginations, perhaps this is the closest to the truth. Here, in our own fiction, we can tell what really happen, or what was said, or thought, without having to admit that this is what happened to us, or someone we know. We put on the mask, and hide behind it, because it is only by doing this that it becomes truthful. Truth is like silence; it is deafening, numbing, maddening, but it is certainly never complete.