True Facts Vs. Emotional Truth

Readers, do you know the first advice aspiring writers are given? Write what you know.

That's the most basic rule a writer is given because it's supposed to inject authenticity into a story.

Write what you know applies whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether it’s a book or an article or a blog post.

Some may think "write what you know" applies only to nonfiction because fiction writers just "make it up." Right?

2 Kinds of Truth

Wrong. In fiction, writing what you know means showing 2 kinds of truth: (1) getting facts correct in your information plot and (2) presenting the underlying universal truth that is as real for an American as it is for an Italian or a Japanese.

Universal truth is the honesty and recognizable truth that makes fiction come to life. It’s what will make an editor offer you a book publishing contract or a reader buy every book or ebook you write.

One might even say that writing what you know – the emotions you feel when hurt, scared, angry, or happy – is even more important in fiction because without that truth, your fiction will never succeed because readers won’t emotionally invest in the story.

Facts: Research For Credibility

If you’ve read some of my writing how-to articles or taken a class or seen me giving a presentation at a conference, you’ve probably heard me say it this way: Write what you know or want to know.

For the most part, researching and writing about a subject is a form of self-education. I truly think if writers are interested enough in a subject to do the necessary research AND if they have the ability to articulately express ideas then they can write on a variety of subjects without necessarily being an expert.

Writers should never be intimidated because they’re not experts in whatever subject they wish to use as background or as an information plot. As long as the subject interests a writer, then research deeply and learn. Writers owe that to readers.


When I wrote The Trouble With Love, I knew nothing about how a small county Sheriff’s department would work. How many deputies would there be? What jobs would the deputies do? How autocratic could small town mayors be? I only knew that my heroine would be a small county deputy who always followed the rules.

So I read some books written about small town law enforcement departments. I talked to my nephew who was a Sheriff’s Deputy. I looked up crime stats and also read about politics in rural areas and small towns. In other words, before I wrote a word of The Trouble With Love, Book 1 of Texas One Night Stands, I did my research to see if my heroine and my premise were credible.

Emotional or Universal Truth

The other kind of truth is the underlying emotional truth. This universal, or emotional, truth is recognizable all over the world. As I said before, this truth is as real for me as it is for a woman in the Middle East or Asia. This is what will make readers the world over want to read your work. This is the element that breathes life into fiction.

In The Trouble With Love, the heroine Susannah is damaged emotionally because her father walked out on her and her mother when she was a child. She felt that rejection in her soul, and it formed her opinion about men. Yet, as an adult, she keeps trying to make a connection with her father, a man who remains emotionally inaccessible to her.

Who hasn’t felt the sting of rejection? Who hasn’t felt bereft by the loss of love for one reason or another? That’s a universal truth. You might be able to fake expert knowledge some of the time, but you can’t ever fake emotional truth and get away with it.

The ebook edition of The Trouble With Love is available at: Amazon * iBooks * Kobo * Nook * Smashwords and the audio edition can be found at Audible.


What emotion resonates with you? Leave a comment with your email to be entered to win an audio edition of The Trouble With Love

(1) Winner selected by random draw.
(2) Audible coupon good for any country.
(3) Giveaway closes midnight June 5, 2016.

Takeaway Truth

Emotional truth is something we all know. Yes, it’s hard to tap into some emotions, but the rewards are tremendous for readers.

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(Note: This post was previously published, in part, at The Authors of Main Street.)

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