Truth or Fiction

My Daughter recently read the 2006 book “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini.  While reading the book, she thought the fictional High School in the book sounded a lot like a school she considered applying to when it came time to choose a high school.  (In Manhattan we apply to public high and middle schools) So, she researched Vizzini, found that he did indeed attend that particular high school, and more distressing, found that Vizzini committed suicide in 2013.  The manner in which he killed himself was the same method that the protagonist in the book attempted.

Last week, the author of  “How to Murder your Husband” was charged with, you guessed it, murdering her husband. (disclaimer- I have not read this book or done research on the subject)

So what do you think today’s topic is going to be?

After finding out what happened to Vizzini, my daughter asked me “Even if a book is labeled fiction, should we question what the author has written about?  Is it our responsibility to delve deeper into the harsher things authors write?”

I responded- “I don’t know.”

As a would be novelist, I know that I am writing a fictional story.   Are there similarities to me? Sure.  My main character drinks tea.  I drink tea.  It was easy to write a detail about something I know- it added a little depth and didn’t require me to do research. It has become a harmless quirk which makes the character delightful (at least I hope it does- we all know I am not delightful…) But the topic of my story, the plot? Well, that’s fiction…

Let’s just think about Gillian Flynn.  Would you want to be married to her?  I know “Gone Girl” freaked me out.  I actually said “No Way” multiple times as I read it. Could you be married to her and not wonder what was really going on in her head?

So…

Does a reader have the responsibility to wonder if someone is writing fiction, or a thinly veiled memoir? Do the loved ones of an author need to worry if an author keeps writing about disturbing topics? If your significant other, or your co worker or your child is writing about suicide do you say something?

One of the first commandments of fiction writing is “Write what you know”. Under that assumption it would be safe to assume that all fiction contains some truth, or relates to the author in some way. But how do we tell truth from fiction? At what point to we say “Wow.  Maybe this should be looked into.”

Now as Vizzini had been in a mental health facility, I’m pretty confident that his loved ones knew of his struggles.  But what about other authors? What about the ones who write about things, but haven’t had any outward signs?

Should the reader of a fictional work question the content? Or should we just go with the assumption that the work is mostly fiction?

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You Can’t Handle …..

One of Husband’s favorite movies is “A Few Good Men”.  Every time it is on TV he has to watch it, no matter what part of the movie he catches.  So needless to say, our household is very familiar with the iconic Tom Cruise/Jack Nicholson scene which goes something like this

JN: You want answers?

TC: I think I’m entitled

JN: You want answers?

TC: I want the truth

JN: You can’t handle the truth

I recently wrote a blog about honesty and friendship, about how we all say we want honesty in a relationship, but, well, you know.  Many readers thought that people deserve honesty, but they don’t actually want it.  And sometimes, we don’t want to be totally honest with a friend or relative.  We all agreed, dishonesty with the sole intent to deceive is bad under any circumstances.  That is the kind of honesty we want all the time.

But

I was recently invited to an event.  I thought the invitations were hideous.  But when I got to the event and someone (the parent of the host) exclaimed how gorgeous they were, and asked what I thought, I could only say “Yes.  Unique.”  I didn’t say that they were the most ostentatious thing I’ve ever seen.  I just simply agreed, because it was my opinion they were ugly.  I wasn’t trying to deceive anyone.  I was trying to spare someone’s feelings.

Which brings us to:  Do we really want to hear what our friends think, or do we just want them to agree with us?  Let’s give some examples:

  1. Your friend is dating a guy.  You saw him flirt with another woman at a party.  When asked “What do you think of “M””,  what do you say?
  2. Friend gets engaged to M.  You think he will cheat on her but you have no proof.  What do you do when she says “Isn’t M wonderful?”
  3. Friend is married to X.  You see him kiss another woman.  When she says “He is absolutely the best husband, right?”  How do you answer?

How truthful are you in any of these situations?  Do you worry that your friend will never speak to you again?

Leading to:  Some friends will drop you like a hot potato if you tell them the truth because it’s not the  truth that they want to hear.  So many people have vowed never to tell the truth to a friend, because the truth is just not worth it.  Especially about a significant other.

Now let’s skip to a different honesty situation:  Your kids and their grades.  Many schools have adopted a loosey goosey attitude towards grades.  A child should not be based on how well they perform in a classroom situation because it might not be a holistic indicator of a child’s strengths and weaknesses.  Ok.  Whatever.

Now I want you to think about it like this.  Do parents not want to see grades because they really don’t want the truth about their child’s academic abilities?  Does a parent really want to know that their child is below average in math? Gee, do parents want to know that their offspring is average at math (fact: most people are average: that’s the definition of average) Every parent thinks their child is exceptional, and that is truth.  Every child is exceptional, to a parent.  But in the world as a whole, well, that just may not happen.  A child may not be exceptional in everything.  But does any parent want to hear that their child might not be the greatest thing in the world?  Do we really want honesty about our children and how they perform?  Better yet, if someone says our child is not the greatest whatever in the world, do we come up with excuses?  Do parents say there was some sort of conspiracy involved? That the coach/teacher/instructor was jealous, or something equally inane?

I’m betting that I will write on this topic again.  I may even review that Jim Carrey movie- I think it’s called “Liar, Liar” but I’m going to fact check that.  But think about how much honesty you really want in your life.  And at what cost.

Can you handle the truth?

 

 

What Does Friend Really Mean?

Let’s start out with a disclaimer.  I get an idea for a blog, I pen it into my planner, and then I write about it.  My thoughts have been fruitful of late, so I’ve been about 2 1/2 weeks ahead in the thought process.  Now, since I took a hiatus, the idea for today’s blog came over a month ago, from a blog my friend Eilene wrote.  Here’s the problem- i don’t remember enough about her post to give it any kind of real reference as to what motivated me to write this.  But anyway…

What are the qualities you want in a friend.  Think about it.  I’ll wait…

Say, you want a friend to be honest.  Honesty is a good trait.  We want to deal with people in our daily lives who speak the truth and don’t lie.

Right?

Honesty is good, right?

We want our friends to be honest, right?

I binge watched “Grace and Frankie” (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it but plans on it) Before Frankie married, someone told her the man she was about to marry was gay.  Truthful, right?  Frankie didn’t speak to that person for 40 years.

Now, the person was honest, right?  But look at the outcome.  How honest do we want our friends to be?  How many people in our lives to we want to be completely honest with us?

Honesty often hurts.  When confronted with the cold, hard facts, we often crumble.  We get defensive.  My daughter recently asked me to review something she had written for her AP Lang assignment.  I told her it wasn’t very good, that she kind of skirted the question, and the voice was very passive when clearly the tone of the piece was supposed to evoke emotion.  My daughter stormed off.  She told me I was horrible.

Horrible?

Isn’t honesty good?

Don’t we want people to be honest with us?

Let’s think about how we define honesty.  Honesty is when we tell the truth.  Honesty is when we don’t lie. Lying is bad.

But are there things that are OK to lie about?  Are there times when a lie is justified?  Are there times when honesty is probably not the right course?

Let’s try this.  To be deceitful is definitely bad.  To tell a woman that you are single, when you are in fact married, is a bad thing.  Does anyone think this is an acceptable lie?

So, lying to be deceitful and not let someone have the whole story is bad.

Now I’m going to give you another TV reference.  Big Bang Theory spoiler alert.  On a recent episode, Amy picked out a wedding dress.  Penny and Bernadette thought the dress was hideous.  When Amy asked, Penny told her the truth.  Amy’s feelings were hurt.  Did Amy want the truth, or did she want agreement?

Which brings us to: if a friend asks an opinion question, is it OK to lie?  Would it really be a lie if Penny said the dress was beautiful?

In TV world, Penny ended up telling Amy that the dress was Amy’s choice, and it didn’t matter who liked it.  I thought this was the right approach to the situation, but does this choice make anyone feel better?

Opinion honesty is a tough call, because opinions are just that: opinions.  Opinions are based on a particular individuals thoughts, and might not necessarily be based on fact.  In my writing group, we share work.  Now as you know, writing work is very personal.  No one wants to be told that there is a flaw in their writing, or an inconsistency.  So I was in a quandary yesterday.  I told one of my writing friends (who is an absolutely amazing writer BTW) that I thought she had an issue with character development with one of her characters.  But it was based on my opinion.  True, i gave her examples of why I thought the character needed to be fleshed out a little more, but I don’t know if I’m right.  (mark this date down: I admitted that I might not be right about everything)  But I felt I needed to tell her how I felt, and why.

Should we give friends out true opinions of things, even when they are going to go against someone’s thought/beliefs/feelings?

So what are your thought on honesty as to how it pertains to friendship?  What is your definition of honesty?  Are you always honest with your friends about everything?  How about family?  Are you always honest with your family?

Discuss…