I am a storyteller who tells many stories; most of them, if not all, are true, but often at the end of a well-told tale, a listener will insist the story cannot be “real.” Listeners laugh and shake their heads when I insist otherwise.
The truth is I write fiction, but I tell truth, because stories of truth are worthy of being told. However, I tell truth with all the craft and polish of fiction.
There is a wide gulf between truth and fiction other than the definition we all accept: one is true or real while the other is not. Sometimes separating the two is difficult, even for educated adults. How wonderful it is that children, on the other hand, accept the story as is. They accept wonder and magic until they grow up and replace innocence with worldly sophistication.
Most people think truth is boring, but the children and I know that often it is even more magical than fiction.
I can create stories of fiction at the drop of a hat, but I tell stories of truth because it is easy; all one needs are strong powers of observation and a good memory. A sizable vocabulary helps, too. Fiction on the other hand is difficult to write; the plot and the characters must be created true—to life, unless the story is a fantasy. Each word of the prose must be crafted, honed and polished in the realm of the possible and plausible or readers will not suspend their disbelief and accept the fiction.
How strange is that? The fiction is crafted to shine with the mantle of the plausible, for readers to accept it as true. Truth is often homespun and wears a rough weave; to present it otherwise converts it into a fiction.
One of my favorite storytellers, Mark Twain, understood the differences between the two. That’s why his stories are still read today.
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
— Mark Twain