Writing Tip: #20 Digging for TRUTH

Writers are always preaching about “the truth” in writing.

Until recently, this has been an abstract concept for me. I know what it means to “tell the truth,” but how does this relate to my story? Isn’t fiction a lie by definition?

Thanks to a long week of exploring, explaining, and defending my work, this concept has finally clicked in my brain. For the next two tips, I’m going to try to find a concrete way to explain it.

Part One: Digging for TRUTH
First, spend days, weeks, months, or years digging toward the REALISTIC core of your story. When you find it, expose it to the world through character and plot. Is the Truth taboo? Even more of a reason to expose it.

I explain best by example, and since I have intimate knowledge of my own work and the reactions to my work, I’ll use The Accidental Siren as an example. Siren is a story about a twelve-year-old siren named Mara Lynn. Mara is objectively the most beautiful girl in the world. James Parker is also twelve. He, like the rest of the world, has an unnatural attraction to Mara.

The idea for this story began as a simple “what if” concept: “What if there was a girl more beautiful than anyone in the world?”

If we stand on the surface of this idea, we might write a generic paranormal romance. But if we pursue Truth, we’ll find ourselves digging to the very essence of this concept. Essentially, we can find the Truth by asking ourselves, “What would ACTUALLY happen if a prepubescent boy met the prettiest girl alive?”

He would:
-like her.
-love her.
-dream about her.
-keep her for himself.
-objectify her.
-feel bad for objectifying her.
hate himself for objectifying her.
-lie for her.
-fight for her.
-kill for her?
-hit puberty sooner.
-ask friends about sex.
-read books about sex.
-experiment with his own sexuality.
-attempt to be different from other boys.
-find ways to prove he’s different from other boys.
-betray his friends for her affection.
-betray his family for her affection.
-betray himself for her affection.
-see her as unique.
-see her as supernatural.
-see her as God.

Hopefully this list helps to clarify what I mean by “digging.” If we stop after the first few layers, we are not telling the Truth, but rehashing clichéd stories.

Notice that the goal of this exercise was NOT to be provocative. I wasn’t looking to offend readers with this book. I just followed the Truth as far as a 28-year-old male from Michigan could. I drew from my past experiences as a twelve-year-old. Like all guys, I remember the experience. Unlike all guys, I’m willing to tell the Truth about it.

Stay tuned for:
Part Two: Identifying the Truth

I’m using my own story as an example. But are there any popular books, movies, or TV shows that you feel exemplify this concept?



  1. Kallie

    And this was one of those things I liked about your writing. You weren’t afraid to include things other people usually wouldn’t. I like this tip. :)

  2. Pingback: Writing Tip #21: Identifying TRUTH « Jake Vander Ark

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