Write great protagonists!
I'll be at LDSPMA
Tips organized by topic
Read about me
Editing Services
Read Testimonials
Learn the "bones" of story

Monday, May 6, 2013

2 Types of Truth in Fiction: Do You Know Which One You are Telling?

Did you know there are two types of truth in fiction?

Whatever stories we write include statements about the world, whether or not we want them to. Brilliant authors use theme to their advantage; they use story as a means to tell others about poverty, slavery, love, and courage. Less attuned authors, on the other hand, might imply messages unintentionally. Stephenie Meyer, for example, has been ridiculed for presenting females as weak and dependent, although she never meant to. I happen to like Twilight, but the arguments are legitimate.

Writers, like other artists, use fiction to tell truths.

“It is not our abilities that show us what we truly are, but our choices,”
“Sometimes it is harder to follow than it is to lead,” 
"to hurt is as human as to breathe,” 
“Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life,” 
“It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart,”

are all truths writers have penned. But there are different kinds of truths. Some truths are steady and consistent while others are more subjective or relative.

When it comes to the arts, I see two kinds of truths: the Absolute Truth and the worldly truth. (Please note that when I say “worldly” I mean “of the world” without the “wicked” connotation.) The Absolute Truth is comprised of eternal, ideal teachings—love conquers all, be true to yourself, never give up—and presents us with how life should be. The worldly truth is comprised of teachings that hold true in the imperfect world we live in—feed and entertain a people to make them lose political power, sometimes the oppressed grow more ruthless than the oppressors—and presents us with how life is.

Both truths are important. Both truths are powerful. Lord of the Rings can inspire me to press on during trials just as effectively as The Hunger Games can provoke me to reevaluate our entertainment industry. Here are some points I use to define Absolute Truth and worldly truth, with some pictures for examples.

Absolute Truth

Characters rewarded for choosing the right and enduring to the end

Good overcomes evil

Uplifts and encourages

Inspires others to be better

Worldly truth

Illuminates one's understanding of the world

Increases awareness of issues in the world

Sparks reflection and incites worldly changes

Leaves audience "sadder but wiser"

Sometimes, these truths can overlap. In Les Miserables, for example, Jean Valjean witnesses worldly truths while seeking Absolute Truth. The worldly truths are evident in the poverty and lack of freedom the characters' experience, while the Absolute Truths appear in the themes of mercy, redemption, and love. This works well in Les Miserables partly because in the end we follow the characters beyond death, bringing both the worldly and Absolute truths to a satisfying close.

But what about stories that don’t tell truths? Unfortunately, they exist. And they’re dangerous because under the guise of entertainment, they deceive us. . .


Glorifies evil, sin, lust, violence


Promotes and encourages "wrong" or immoral behavior

Employs shock value for the sake of shock value

I didn’t use anything literary for my example picture, but the image above is from a professional photo shoot. Intentional or not, the pictures from the shoot glamorize domestic violence. Likewise, these pictures taken from a Glee photo shoot sexualize minors, and that fact is presented to us as “okay.” Deceptive stories breed damaging perspectives and strike at our humanity. They can often influence a people without them even noticing.

Whatever you write, be savvy about which of these categories you are tapping into. Certain genres lend themselves to certain categories. Fantasy often deals with Absolute Truth. Dystopian can be a great vehicle for worldly truth. Porn, in my opinion, delivers deception.

Think about the message you are putting out into the world with your story. Your readers will be influenced by your work. Does your story tell of Absolute Truths or worldly truths? Make sure it doesn't stem from deception. Strive to be aware and have control over what your story is saying.

So, in closing, do you prefer Absolute Truth or worldly truths in your entertainment? Which is in your fiction?


  1. Wow, so much to think about with this post. Great topic to pick! I'll be thinking about this as I write. And yeah, you didn't have to say it, but we all know you were thinking about 50 shades of gray :)

    1. Hahaha... yeah... that might be a good example. Glad I could help!

  2. This is very insightful and has me evaluating what "truths" am I teaching in my books. Great article, Kami.

  3. found you on glipho... woah good stuff. haven't run across a blog yet that tackles topics like this :)
    - http://dukeseriously.com/

    1. Cool, I love Glipho. I followed you on there. :) Cool pictures.

  4. Really thought-provoking topic. Thanks for bringing it up!

  5. Great post. We should be thinking about what we are saying, intentional or not.

  6. Love this post. Great examples that really make me think. The world is full of unspoken sermons, things we don't realize we're suggesting but that others do.

  7. I don't really like stories that centre on worldly truths. The truths and the stories really disgust me. The only thing I've learned from worldly truths is that it's better to live by and write about the absolute truths, because anything else it bleak and depressing.

    1. They aren't for everyone. Personally, I think it's equally important to learn about the world as it is about the Absolute. If we want to make the world a better place and closer to an Absolute world, we need to understand how our corrupt, fallen, and unfair world works today so we can learn from it, figure out how to improve it, and keep from repeating the same human mistakes. It's important to know about the stark realities of the world so that we can survive them in an appropriate way. Not everyone is effected this way, but worldly truths make me want to make the world a better place. But I do have to approach them differently. I don't think of reading them to feel warm and fuzzy inside, I think of reading them to learn a lesson and to become aware of what needs to change, just as some stories in the scriptures are about wicked people doing wicked things, and we can learn from their poor examples.

      I feel that both truths are important to a society, to educate us and help us become better.

      I particularly love stories, like Les Mis, that beautifully incorporate both, showing how the Absolute and worldly both exist.

      I also don't believe that all worldly truth stories have to end in a depressing way. I often refer to The Hunger Games, and while the ending had depressing parts, if you read the epilogue, it shows a better world, which is actually a positive, optimistic outcome.

      Anyway, sorry so long, but thanks for commenting. A lot of people feel the same way you do. Personally, I'm more of an Absolute writer myself, but I do like the idea of eventually combining them both.


I love comments :)