Friday, April 20, 2012

What is Given: Against Knowingly Changing the Truth « BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:

Jill Talbot ends with a lyric, lovely paragraph in which she explores an evening where the shadows of trees on the snow unsettled her, and explores why she had written earlier that it was the tree branches themselves. And then she quotes Mark Slouka:

There is no map–read as you may, write what you will.

The difference here? For me, there is a map. The map can’t be drawn, but it can be expressed in words:

You work with what is given to you. You arrange the puzzle pieces taken from the nonfiction box without reaching over into the fiction box, as tempting as it may be. You do your best to pull up honest memory. Though we know memory’s weakness, at least don’t lie about what you think you remember. When you are not sure, you tell the reader. When you want to change something, explore why you want to change it. Fiction approaches a certain sort of truth, and thank goodness we have fiction, but it is not the same truth that nonfiction attempts. Know the difference. As a nonfiction writer, you will surely make mistakes, get things wrong, remember poorly, but to do it knowingly, that’s crossing the line.

Thanks for listening, Jill. Let us all discuss.