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Monday, December 8, 2014

Truer than the truth

“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.” – Tim O’Brien

I’ve always felt a kinship with Tim O’Brien.  We are nearly the same age; we were both Midwesterners; and we were both U.S. Army Infantry veterans – although there’s little doubt that his experiences, particularly in the Vietnam War, were much more intense than my own.

A key attribute in O'Brien's work is his relationship between fiction and reality.  While it is fiction, his work contains many details his real-life experiences. It’s a common literary technique, but his approach brings the writing to life in a way that blurs the lines between fact and fiction.
"My story-truth is sometimes truer than my happening-truth," O'Brien said.   And that's probably because "story truth" is emotional truth; thus the feeling created can seem far truer than what results from just reading the facts.

 Tim O’Brien

Writers of historical fiction often must “imagine” themselves in the place and time they are writing so that they can, in turn, put together the story that will not only be based on real events, but also will provide a good tale for their readers.  It’s a technique I highly commend and definitely a key component in what makes up writers’ moments.  And, if you want to see it done in a masterful way, read O’Brien. Better yet, read his masterpiece The Things They Carried.  You won’t be disappointed.

Happy writing!

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