Tuesday, December 4, 2018

One True Sentence

When it came to writer's block, or the prevention thereof, Hemingway once coined the famous dictum, "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." Ever since then, scholars have been scratching their heads as to his precise meaning and Papa is no doubt still laughing his balls off even from the grave.

What the hell does that mean? Write one true sentence.

Okay, I get it. You gotta get the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and emotions spot on. Like a reporter would do for a newspaper story (Hemingway started out as a newspaper reporter). He would strive for accuracy in setting and action. But Papa was writing fiction which by definition is a big fat lie masquerading as the truth. Even if you're writing dystopian sci fi, you're going for as believable a book as possible.

But by writing that first true sentence, which in my case is usually a false sentence that should somehow read as something that, theoretically anyway, could have happened (or be happening in the case of the first person POV), I'm creating a kind of truth that would otherwise not have existed. Get my meaning here? I'm creating a whole new world, new characters with real drama, real problems that are at times life threatening. I write thrillers after all.

I just spent the past six weeks writing 70K words for a new book that takes place ten years in the future called Primary Termination. It's about a consumer-centric online company that essentially controls every aspect of your life and the Resistance movement that rebels against it. How did I begin a novel that takes place in a year that hasn't occurred yet, based around a plot that can only be imagined?

I wrote one true sentence.

"She's drowning in her own air." It's the first sentence of the prologue and it's the truth because my protagonist is running for her life. Then I wrote what would happen next and what would happen after that and so on and so forth. All of it is true and all of it is a lie at the same time. A fabrication based on a perceived truth. A sculpture, a painting, a sketch, a video game, a film, a song, an illusion, a book...it's all true and it's all made up.

One true sentence. It's what I have in the place of writer's block.
Thanks Papa.


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