Truth Inside the Lie

Under My Skin: Volume I of my Autobiography to 1949. This was the first volume of a two volume autobiography, covering  birth in 1919 to leaving Southern Rhodesia.

I just came across this quote by Doris Lessing (from the first volume of her autobiography, Under My Skin):

“There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.” 

In the dedication for the novel It, Stephen King says:

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” (That bit is part of a longer sentence, but works better on its own.)

I’ve been thinking about this all day.  I know that if I go looking I can find similar quotes by writers, but really what interests me is the juxtaposition of lie – truth – fiction. 

 

Doping up Baby

It’s often distressing to read 19th century advertisements.  Our great-great grandparents  were just as desperate (and gullible) when it comes to certain aspects of the human condition. Hair loss, for example.  

Weight-loss was just as big a topic back then as it is now, though body image was not quite so awful. 

Nobody likes a crying baby. Parents don’t like their kids to be in pain or distress, and strangers are often pretty intolerant. Do a google search and you’ll see that this is a perennial problem with no easy solution. Sometimes babies just cry. Sometimes babies get really sick, and they scream.  Sometimes overwrought caregivers are driven to extremes. There is no excuse for that, but it happens. It happened then, too.

What’s most disturbing about the 19th century is how unaware they were of the dangers of doping their children. Have a look at this handy dandy cure for the crying baby available at every drugstore.

Stickney & Poor-Paregoric
Stickney & Poor’s Paregoric

It’s a challenge to stay in the mindset of your characters when you’re writing historical fiction.  An intelligent, sensible person who truly believes that there’s nothing dangerous about smoking, or a little laudanum is just what the baby needs, that is sometimes hard to pull off.  I consider it a kind of anachronism to pretend a character understood something that was just not knowable at the time, but I struggle with it.

Of course there were quacks who knew very well that what they were selling would do nobody any good. For instance this cure for male weakness. Note the positioning.

 

 

If you write fiction

….or want to write fiction, or are interested in the process of writing fiction: 

Insomnia drove me to do some work, but weariness kept me from actually writing. So I spent an hour going through old posts on craft (plot, pov, characterization, etc etc), and I’ve organized them into something I hope is usable.

It’s incomplete, but it’s a start.  

You’ll find the index to these posts under “writing and craft” in the menu just under the top banner. Please let me know if you run into any problems. 

Posts on Writing and Craft

Getting Started

Nuts and Bolts

Pierre Georges Jeanniot 1897

The art and craft of writing sex scenes

This is a series of posts on various aspects of writing scenes with sexual content.

  1. Humor: Funny Sex
  2. Lyricism
  3. NC-17
  4. Less; More
  5. Where Things Go Wrong
  6. Where Things Go Wrong(er)
  7. A Kiss is Rarely Just a Kiss
  8. Reader Feedback: On Writing Sex Scenes
  9. Falling in Love
  10. Good Bad Sex
  11. More Good Bad Sex
  12. Reader Responses to Sex Scenes
  13. fools and angels treading: sensitive subjects in fiction
  14. G or PG or Nothing: Unhappy Readers
  15. Stream of (Sexual) Consciousness
  16. playfulness