September 16, 2009

Writing = The Exploration of Truth?

I rarely take the philosophical route. I'm usually more of a "logic" guy. But today, I'm offering up a recent thought that I had in regards to writing. If it's terrible and you hate it, tell me why. If you love it and want to endorse it (re-tweet, maybe?), tell me why. I'm sure it has been said before, whether by a lunatic or a genius, I don't know. But, the thesis for the day is:

Writing is an exploration of Truth.

Yeah, I'm throwing the capital "T" Truth out there. As writers, isn't our goal to replicate life? Even ridiculous stories featuring talking toys or cartoon animals attempt to draw inspiration from real life. Don't writers, then, seek to understand life in such a detailed way that it becomes a pursuit of the Truth? We draw intricately crafted character bios and backgrounds. We research setting, culture, and history. We walk readers down a plotted path that must be, if not logical, feasible. Right?

If a character murders another character, don't we have the obligation of explaining the factors that led up to the killing (if not through the main story, at least through the backstory)? What Truth led to the killing? Perhaps jealousy? Perhaps anger? Perhaps spite?

Take jealousy, for example. Do all jealous people kill? No. What factors in a person's life would lead them to kill out of jealousy? Once we move down this path, aren't we exploring the Truth behind human emotion and the implications of human behavior?

I think we are. The Truth might be stated in the negative (as in the jealousy example), or it might be stated in the positive, but either way, we are exploring Truth, right? Aren't we exploring principles that would lead us down a path that quests for the underlying Truth?

What do you think? Is there any truth (pun intended) to this idea? If so, does this apply to any other forms of art? If not, then what are we doing? What is writing all about?


John Ottinger III (Grasping for the Wind) said...

This is certainly interesting, but I think no one could really argue with it. I think that you really need to dive into the nature of truth. Is it/can it be objective? Or is truth something constructed by us. Since you don't really define truth (however you define it), it is impossible to really commment on your post.

Beyond that, since I believe in objective truth, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Fiction can and should be a search for truth in whatever form that takes.

Unknown said...

I think as writers we're writing the logical steps in a story. The situations and events from point A to point B. But we're also talking about the sane mind. Think about that one...

BobbyNash said...

Sure. There's truth in my writing and there's always some aspect of me in every character (which might explain why Cathy thinks I'm a little creepy now. LOL!)

My main focus when writing is to entertain. I don't generally start a story by planning to teach a moral or spotlight a cause, but if and when those things work their way into a story they do so because it's right and true for the story.

Okay, I'm rambling now. Good night.


J Sherer said...

Grasping: The definition of "Truth," in my opinion, would be something like: "Anything that has consistently proven to be true over the course of time." In that, there's room for relativity and there's "concrete truth." The earth needs the sun (or something like it) to survive. So, a sci-fi story about us losing our sun would have to deal with the truth that humans need sustenence from something. I also think there are some universal truths (think Plato's allegory of the cave). But, that's just my opinion.

Pulptone: Agreed. Those logical steps, to me, are what we would define as "truth." I think you can view the antithesis of truth through an insane mind. We may even explore the relative nature of truth through insanity, but only if it's somewhat logical, I think.

Bobby: Nice. There's the one exception I've noticed. Writing purely to entertain. Granted, there's probably still some sort of truth even in that, but you could have a completely random story that doesn't contain much truth. I don't think that exploring "Truth" necessarily lends itself to morality. It's more like "Truth" is related to the natural order of things. Does that make sense?

I love the thoughts, guys! Thanks for commenting!

Nyree said...

Great post. I personally have found writing to be the ultimate exploration of truth. Whether I'm writing one of my sci-fi stories or just journaling about a very interesting day.

It's a way of working things out. Sometimes I've found just writing a sentence out on how I'm feeling on a given day offers back answers I never would have thought of otherwise.

As a writer, I'm always observant of people (more than most non-writers I think, LOL)and find myself curious about their life, what makes them tick, how they ended up being the person they are right at that moment...

I think a good writer can bring those elements to life for the reader thus setting into motion a whole new understanding of people, situations and theories THEY never would have thought of before ;)

J Sherer said...

Nyree, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I love the last paragraph of your comment, because there's a lot of insightfulness that writers can convey through that type of approach.

We all have to keep observing people. Without them, we wouldn't have characters.