ACW

ACW

Sunday, 12 March 2017

You really are an interesting person, if you dare to be honest. By Andrew J Chamberlain

I’m a fan of a YouTube channel called The School of Life

The channel presents a contemporary, philosophical perspective on how to live well. It’s doesn’t have a Christian perspective, but it does often present solutions and insights which are in line with Christian thought and principle.

A recent episode focused on the thorny social question of “how not to be boring”. In that episode, the secret to not being boring was revealed as being able to speak honestly, especially about what we desire, what we are passionate about.

In the episode, the narrator said this:

“The human animal witnessed in its essence with honesty and without artifice is always interesting.  When we call a person boring we are just pointing to someone who has not had the courage or concentration to tell us what it’s like to be them. By contrast we invariably prove compelling when we say what we truly desire, envy, regret, mourn and dream.”

Scripture has a high opinion of truth. We are told that we will ‘know the truth and it will set us free’ (John Ch 8 v32) We are exhorted not to bear false witness against our neighbour, and not to lie to each other. As Christians, we know the value of honesty.

And there’s a lesson here for us as writers as well.

The quote from The School of Life gives us an important clue about how we can help to make our writing compelling and engrossing for the reader. We must be honest, we must speak candidly about our passions, our fears, our dilemmas.

I think this is true for fiction and non-fiction. To draw on the quote above, if we want our characters to be interesting I think we should present them with some degree of honesty. This doesn’t mean they can’t lie to other characters, but at some level we must present who they really are.

I think this issue has been difficult for Christians and Christian writing. There has been a
tendency for us to shy away from some of the ragged and raw aspects of human life. We have been wary of appearing to be too gratuitous in our gritty portrayal of reality. We have been cautious about pandering to the world by mimicking its worst aspects too closely.

But honesty is never gratuitous, it’s hard work to find this kind of truth, but if can breakthrough to the real issues, the real passions, the real questions, then we will find a very real audience.

Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has published fiction and collaborated on a number of ghost-writing projects through Authentic Media, including the bestselling, 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories. 

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I think sometimes this may be a personality thing too. Some people are happy to express their views here, there and everywhere, others less so. But the point you make about honesty in writing is true, particularly when done with integrity. Great post.

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  2. Thanks Deborah, I think you are right about this being a function of personality, especially in terms of how easy, or hard someone finds it to share their personal lives with others. Also I think this is not about people being narcissistic, it's about honesty and humility I think. Andy

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  3. Thanks for this. It is helpful. Much of the feedback I have had about my books point to honesty being the reason they are helpful. I have found preaching honestly has the same effect.
    Bless you

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    1. Thanks Lynda, I do think that honesty, and it's related virtue, authenticity, compel people to pay attention to what is being said or written, it's what captures people.

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