The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Honestly, it's the truth!

by Antonios Maltezos

We talk about honesty in writing as if honesty and truthfulness are things we writers understand naturally because our characters need to have some depth as they face their issues. They need conflict, we find it, create a scenario, present challenges so it seems they're always on the verge of failure. Just like in real life. When we succeed, our stories and situations have an air of believability about them, an intensity to mirror real life. There's honesty in that writing.

(this is fiction)
Hard Praying

The first time I prayed hard, I was still in my youth. It was just after my dog disappeared. I can’t say more than that concerning how he was lost to me. I wasn’t offered an explanation when I came home from school and noticed he was missing. I can’t say my dog escaped from the backyard by chewing through a rotted fence board. I can’t say my dog chased a car and was run over. I can’t even say for sure it was my father who brought him to the pound. All I got was a simple Ringo’s gone, and then a quick wash-up for supper.

I remember praying at Sunday Mass, squeezing my hands together, asking why, why. Not in anger. I just wanted to know why it was taking forever. I prayed as hard as my mother, both of us leaning into the man between us, hoping he’d catch some of it, loosen his necktie because he was having trouble breathing.

(here's the truth)

I didn't come off that school bus looking for my dog, but after it was all said and done, it was my dog I wanted, my dog I cried for, my father I wanted to kill. And I do get to kill him in the story Hard Praying. I think it's a story whose characters are believable in the context of the situation I've created. The father is a cold-hearted sumbitch who thinks nothing of treating those closest to him like objects to be tossed aside if they're in the way. He's the last man a good and emotional person would want to have as a father. It's a terrible truth. The writer has to be brave to write a story like this, to peer into the needy heart of a boy starving for some love. Yuck! What a crock! It was my mother who forced my poor father to give up the dog! But did he tell me that? No. He took his lumps, never once saying it was her fault, that woman looking down at her hands through all of this.

There's no honesty in the story I wrote. I took the truth and played with it, changed my memories of my father to suit the fiction I wanted to write. Ugh! Shame on me. I'm tired of doing this. Truth is my mom had to clean up after that dog I loved so much. Our backyard was in a state of ruin and my father was working too much. Mom had had enough. And she was right to have had enough. The dog had taken over her life. She put her foot down and dad complied, knowing full well he couldn't work less hours to help take care of that big dog. That's the truth. Sorry dad.

I'm going to rewrite Hard Praying, search for a more honest story.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I think there IS emotional truth in the fiction you wrote. The narrator isn't really you, so the truth is for the man/boy you're imagining in the fiction, a projection of yourself, perhaps, in an alternate reality. There's a lot of integrity in the writing. But if you feel that what you wrote is hurtful to your father, I can understand you wanting to rewrite it. How noble of him to take the blame. I suppose he must have felt guilty about the additional work the dog represented for your mother.

Sat Dec 15, 01:43:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Fabulous stuff, Tony. I love this post. Bang-on.

But I agree with Tricia.

Since there's never only one truth in a single 'moment', and you can only write one story at a time, you've captured something that feels honest, perhaps something you 'prayed' or wished to be true in some way.

For me, I love what you wrote; it doesn't ring false at all.

Sat Dec 15, 03:07:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger H.E.Eigler said...

In this case I think the truth does make for a more interesting story. It's common to read about a big bad daddy with no love for anyone. It's worse to have a mother thinking of herself and who has no love for the dog....mothers are supposed to be all loving right?? Anyone want my dog??

Sat Dec 15, 06:52:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Thanks for commenting on my dilemma, guys. I guess it does have more to do with me feeling as if I've raked everyone I know through the coals at on time or another just so I could get my story. It doesn't feel honest anymore, on a personal level. I'm starting to want less villains, more decent folk in my writing. If it means I have to work harder finding the stories, then I'm ready.

Sat Dec 15, 09:55:00 pm GMT-5  

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