Non-Fiction: A True Test of Character

Discussion in 'Nonfiction Writing' started by rlkyle, Oct 31, 2018.

  1. rlkyle

    rlkyle New Member

    Human beings live in a decidedly non-fiction world. Bombarded from every side, by the ever present media, from family and friends, and even superficial social contacts with complete strangers. Each person is faced with the daunting task of sorting, characterizing, and storing each bit of information that comes in. Some bits may be allocated to the 'truth' center and incorporated into the personal paradigm. Other bits may be briefly considered and summarily dismissed, though it is important to realize that nothing is ever truly "forgotten". The incredible super-computer that is the human brain stores everything but leaves the most imminent and pertinent in the forefront. Information colors and shapes the values, priorities and ultimate worldview of each person, and constructs a lens through which life and the surrounding world are seen. The test for any writer of non-fiction lies not in the gathering and passing on of information, but in developing the ability to step outside the self and simply pass the information forward. A non-fiction writer must be able to take a subject, and in a truly unbiased fashion, pick it up, turn it over and honestly consider it from all sides equally. Without a full and holistic understanding of any subject the inevitable outcome will be a one-sided work at best, or at worst, a work of unintentional fiction. The challenge then becomes the presentation. How to identify those elements which are disputable or uncertain, and juxtapose them against those that are solidly irrefutable. The non-fiction writer must be, at heart, an outside observer. The ultimate goal is to lay out all the pieces in an interesting and informative manner, and allow the reader to arrive at his or her own final conclusion. The setting aside of the emotional self, even for a brief period, does not come naturally to most. As with any skill, it takes practice and continuous use. It has been said that history is always written from the standpoint of the victor. I disagree. Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that Israel spent much more time in defeat than they ever did in victory. It is the mission of the non-fiction writer to step outside the circumstances and emotions, and to present a "just the facts" product that may be trusted and learned from both by contemporaries and by future generations. To look within and expunge bias is both difficult and rewarding. The truth is, unless we know where we have been, we cannot know where we are going. Non-fiction should be the rudder for the ship of society, and its writer, the faithful helmsman.
     

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