Guest Posts
Is It True? – Guest Post by David Burnett @DavdBurnett
by Deborah Carney
in Guest Posts
“Is it true?”
Thirty-something years ago, I asked that question as I was reading Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini, a story about an abusive Marine colonel and his adolescent son. Perhaps it was the setting. The coast of South Carolina was familiar to me, and I could see surf and the marsh, the Spanish moss and the antebellum city of Beaufort against which the story was set. Maybe it was characters, who were familiar to a Southern boy. Maybe it was simply the fact that the story was told from one particular point of view. In any case, the story felt “real,” I and wondered if it were true
“I’m Allison,” declared my wife after reading almost halfway through my first novel, The Reunion. She then proceeded to identify the other characters. I, of course, was Michael, Allison’s husband. One of our daughters must have been the basis for their daughter, Alicia, and the woman who certainly was sure to cause trouble for Allison as the story progressed, was she modeled on my wife’s nemesis from high school?
Fiction, of course, is not true, and my book contained the usual disclaimer, asserting that a resemblance to any real person was coincidental. On the other hand, certain aspects of Allison’s behavior – a list of rules three miles long, for example – certainly sounded like my wife! One of our daughters loves new shoes, as does Alicia.
A review of the book identified several events, minor events, that were based in fact: a teen-aged boy who lifted the key to the girls’ hotel room during a school field trip and led an after-midnight water balloon attack, a student who hung his high school’s pennant from the pole in front of a cross-town rival, a group of attorneys who had a contest, shooting rubber bands at the decorations on the office Christmas tree, a trip to Great Britain that included several cities I have visited.
But what about the story, itself? Was it true? Did it happen?
In my case, no. The story, itself, did not happen. It was fiction.
However, stories, even though they are not factual, often are used to convey great truths. We might think of the parables of Jesus, simple stories which he used to teach the nature of God. We might think of the myths of Greece and Rome which offered explanations for events that went far beyond their explicit content. All stories, I believe, all good stories, contain truth.
I think of Andrea Hurst’s The Guestbook, a story about a woman escaping a bad marriage who meets a man . . . Beneath the specific story, we learn that acceptance and love can change a person’s life.
In Michael Baron’s Anything, we see the importance of a single event, how it can totally change the lives of those who are involved and all of those who know them. We learn what it means to give up everything for the one you love.
In The Reunion, we see the impact of small events, insignificant at the time, which build upon each other and alter peoples’ lives. We learn that one can find happiness in unexpected ways.
While any novel can be read as a pure work of fiction, there generally is an element of truth that underlies the story. If the reader can find that truth, the enjoyment will be so much greater!


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