The Truth and Nothing But the Truth?

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Here is a painting which hangs in my office just waiting for me to take a break and sit at the table. I run my fingers over the crisp cloth and smile expectantly as I wait for the server to appear. Ah, a cool beverage, perhaps with a couple of berries or cherries or even mint leaves to garnish it.

Oh, but it’s not reality, you say, only a painting. That makes me wonder about just what the painter saw. Was the reality exactly like this? Or did the painter create his/her own idea of the truth?

Perhaps this started as a camera photo from which some clever person painted what hangs in my office. Were  young lovers sitting at the table, or an old man alone with his thoughts? Was there only one door and one building and the steps simple and square?

What we see here is the result of what our minds and our talents can do, whether with paints or words. The pink pops of flowers, maybe bougainvillea, might have been a broken down string of parched ivy. We don’t know.

We do this in writing, don’t we? Historical fiction is an excellent example. We strip out most of the story we remember and just use parts. Our rendition will not be the truth as far as reporting a certain incident but it will shine with its own truth in the context of our story. My great great great great grandfather is listed as having fought with Butler’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War. Further research shows this may or may not be true. For The Loyalist’s Wife I have chosen to make it true. Of course nothing else about John Garner in the novel is true but the details of that war are.

A good rule to use in historical fiction is to stick to the actual events as much as possible but weave fictional characters into them in a compelling way. John and Lucy are part of the mass movement of loyalist settlers who fought for the British King and ultimately lost. They represent all the real people who may have had similar experiences but are themselves creations of my imagination.

I have added details to round out the picture, just as the painter who created my painting could have done. How have you used truth and fiction in your writing?

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8 thoughts on “The Truth and Nothing But the Truth?

  1. Hello Elaine! I have some smaller paintings like yours that were a gift from my lovely and brilliant neice ( well, she is!). She is a lawyer, young mother and a singer. She has travelled a great deal . Often she tells me that a certain place perhaps in Ireland, Greece ,Rome or even Boston makes her think of me and how I would enjoy being there. I think that is a wonderful thing. Your painting looks like a place to dream, think and appreciate. That feeling is part of storytelling.
    Merry Christmas and enjoy your writing.
    Liz

    Like

    • You have it exactly, Liz! And of course the story of my husband buying it for me in a restaurant where I admired it as we were eating a lovely dinner is part of the painting’s aura. That painting elicits all kinds of feelings–great for a writer, eh?

      Like

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