Monday, July 2, 2007

“Whatever is True,” Part II

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true…think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Last week we looked at whether fiction can be “true”—that is, does it conform with reality? Our conclusion was yes, fiction of all genres can conform to reality, reflecting not only historical and scientific fact, but also the unchanging moral truth of Scripture (the depravity of man, evil leads to destructions, all actions carry consequences).

But since fiction of all types can be true, what is “untrue” fiction?

Think about the books that you’ve read and complained didn’t ring “true.” More than likely, you were complaining that story violated this principle of reality. Maybe the historical setting was inaccurate. Maybe the portrayal of a job didn’t reflect what that work is really like. Or perhaps the science was simply implausible.

So as long as writers do their research, they everything will be fine—right?

Not quite. We also have a built-in sense of moral truth (Romans 2:14-15) and consciously or unconsciously, we expect fiction to conform to that truth: We crave good to win over the end (just like in Revelation), and if it doesn’t, there had better be a very good reason why. We long for characters to change—but gradually and not overnight, unless there is a dramatic reason why. We expect most heroes to have flaws and most villains to have virtues—just like real people.

And that—even more than historical or scientific fact—is what makes a good story ring true.

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds,
Chawna Schroeder

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