Writing Tip: #21 Identifying TRUTH

Continued from Part One: Digging for Truth

Now that we know how to dig for Truth using “What if” questions, how do we identify the Truth when it’s uncovered?

First, lets look at the qualities of Truth.

Truth is Universal
It doesn’t matter if your story is a romance between a flying turtle and a jelly bean. If you tell your story with honesty, everyone will be able to identify with it.

Truth is Often Unique
You may be searching in familiar territory (Love, death, hope, obsession, terror), but when you discover Truth, it will something special… something only you could find.

Truth Can Be Provocative
If you reach a question that makes you think, “Whoa… I don’t know if I should go there…” chances are, you’re on the right track.

Truth is Always Captivating
Because it’s universal, unique, and provocative, people are captivated by honesty.

Some Examples
“Death is sad,” is not Truth. It’s an observation that is often true, but not always.

What happens if you’re Nate Fisher from the third season of Six Feet Under? Here’s a man who threw his life away by marrying the woman he knocked up. He hates the banality of his new life. He might even hate his wife.

But then she goes missing. Several episodes later, nobody can find her. Death is the only explanation.

“Sad” doesn’t even come close to describing Nate’s emotions. Neither does “relief.” Nate (and the Six Feet Under writers) had to dig deeper to find Truth with a capital T. Through his wife’s death, Nate discovers that he actually loves her. He feels guilty for wishing her out of his life. He misses her despite his newfound freedom. Truth, in this instance, is a horrific crucible of emotions that never would have been unearthed if the writers had stopped at “sad.”

If I was writing a scene about death before my father died, I WOULD have stopped at “sad.” I wouldn’t have been able to write about how my nightmares became comforting because my reality was worse. I never would have known about the hatred I’d feel towards doctors for limiting a patient’s morphine intake. I didn’t know that the worst part about my father’s death would be the fact that he’d never see me succeed as a writer.

Now, scroll up and scan this post again. I bet you were mildly interested in the first half (or you wouldn’t have gotten this far)… but I bet you were fully immersed in the last two paragraphs.

THAT is the power of truth.


Want more writing tips? Check out my new book, Put the Cat In the Oven Before You Describe the Kitchen.



  1. Pingback: 21 Tips About Writing From Twitter « Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides

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