Authors – Find Your Book’s Inner Truth & Hook Readers For Life

Once in awhile, you read a book that changes everything.

For me, it’s usually the ones that make me grip the kitchen counter because I need a minute to get a grip of the quivering and bug-eyed daze I’m in. In those seconds, I have a literary, emotional or philosophical ‘O’. A synchronizing of minds with my Muse, its heart beat, pumping in time with mine, pouring inspiration, epiphanies, and unadulterated universal clarity into my consciousness.

Sometimes I just smile, because the epiphany I had, is a small emotional win. Like the fact that when you can’t heal from something in your past, it’s because you haven’t let it go. If you want a scab to heal, you have to stop picking it.

Other times, the revelation is much more significant. I physically pause for thought because the story has just reiterated how inconsequentially small my life is in relation to the infinite enormity of the universe.

I like to think of these moments of pause as reaffirming moments of philosophy and truth. When it happens, that book stays with me forever. That author has single-handedly changed a part of me. Forget meditative yoga retreats and six-week long vows of silence. All you need is a bloody good book, with a bloody good book truth buried inside it and that’s enough to open someone’s mind, shove a whisk in it and jingle jangle their brain cells into a new alignment.

I want my books to have a book truth because I want to give somebody else that moment of clarity and change the way they view the world. If everybody could change just one person, maybe the world would be a better place. What I do know is, whenever an author has done that to me, I’ve read everything they’ve ever written. Isn’t that every author’s dream? So here’s a few lessons I’ve learned about book truths.

What is a book truth?

There is something buried at the core of every book. Like the seed in an apple, it’s something that creates the essence of your book.

And I don’t mean your books theme. Your book’s theme can usually be summed up in one word. Some kind of fundamental thing or concept. For example in the Hunger Games, the theme is sacrifice. Like any theme, it’s conveyed throughout the book, but that doesn’t make it a book truth.

A book truth is a lesson. And the beauty of learning is that everyone interprets lessons differently. Which is why the book truth I discover might be different to the book truth someone else discovers.

I call it a lesson, because the magic of learning is that once you do learn something you can’t unlearn it. And that means you have to do something about that knowledge.

Non-Fiction Book Truths

Image from Amazon.com

Last week, read Stephen Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit (AmazonUK, AmazonUSA.

The main lesson I took from it was that Non-fiction should be written using a fiction story structure. I slept on that thought and when I woke up and slurped on my morning coffee, I had a sudden gutwrenching realization. I was royally fucked. I needed to completely restructure my non-fiction book on creating better villains called: 13 Steps to Evil.

I’d learned a lesson and I couldn’t unlearn it. That meant I had to do something about it.

There was no going back. Like that moment you walking into your parents bedroom and they’re having sex. You can’t un-see that shit, and I couldn’t unlearn the lesson. I had to restructure.

FudgeBunkingCrackSacks.

Now, Non-fiction’s book truths are different to fiction ones, but the principle remains the same. It’s a lesson.

Image from Amazon. Buy from AmazonUK, AmazonUSA

Fiction & Film Book Truths

Disney and Pixar are super amazetastic when it comes to book truths. They seem to pop them out like an M&Ms or jellybeans binge at the cinema.

I pick on Disney because they make their truths so obvious. And why not, it’s for kids sometimes they need shit wafted in their face.

Finding Nemo, if you haven’t seen it (shame on you), is about two fish; a father and son. The dad (Marlin) lost all his babies and his wife in one go. The only baby he had left, was Nemo a little fishy with a damaged fin, who Marlin then mollycoddles. Nemo, in a bout of rebellion, gets lost in the ocean and taken thousands of miles away. Marlin in his search for his son he realises when he finds it that all along Nemo was fine. Marlin searches the ocean for him and when he finds him, he’s fine and managed perfectly okay. This makes Marlin realise that he has to let Nemo go. We all have to let our kids go and fly the nest and let them live and breathe and make their own mistakes.

 

Image from Amazon. Buy from AmazonUK or AmazonUSA

Planes is another film that my son likes to make me watch regularly, and by regularly I mean, EVERY FREAKING DAY.

The protagonist is a crop duster called Dusty. He’s has had enough of spraying crops and wants to do see the world by being a racer plane.  Everyone around him mocks him and tries to make him stay as he is. But he refuses, fights on, and manages to secure a place in the world’s biggest race.  The film’s truth comes from a little car that can transform into a plane. He says:

“…thanks from all of us that want to do more than what we were just built for.” Franz, Planes.

What he’s saying, and what Dusty proves, is that you don’t have to accept what anyone else ‘thinks’ you should do, and you don’t have to do what you were built for. This stories truth is that you can be anybody you want if you try hard enough.

Last two quick, well known examples. I mentioned the Hunger Games earlier, and its theme was sacrifice. Well, Suzanne Collins has linked her theme to the truth. In the first Hunger Games, the truth is that you can and will win if you’re willing to sacrifice everything.

And in Harry Potter, it’s truth is that love can save you.

What was the book truth in the last book you read? Let me know in the comments below.

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46 comments

  1. I’m not sure I analyse a book in that way. So for example, Harry Potter for me was just fun and entertaining and magical. But if I was to search it for a book truth, for me it would be that even the most unlikely of us can be a hero, because we have deep untapped reserves of strength and courage. I just read tbe Book Thief… it was hard to get into, but I ended up loving it. The universal book truth? Obviously the horror of war and suffering, and the fragility of life. But also to LIVE and not have regrets for the things you didn’t do. Thought provoking post today, Sacha. Or maybe it’s just my pensive mood today… 😁

    1. And that’s the beauty of book truths, they are different for all of us, because we all read stories in different ways. I’d agree on Harry Potter about unlikely heroes, I reckon a book can have more than one truth, so perhaps it’s both? Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 book thief sound intense!

  2. I think truly epic book truths are ones that are raw, genuine and are a tiny glimpse into the author’s soul. Some books try far too hard to recreate them but they ultimately fall flat.
    Great topic!

  3. Basically, all writing should be real, regardless of theme or genre. That’s how we can all find something to relate to, something to ping that little bell in our heads…

  4. I agree with the point you are making: I can cite Susan Howatch’s Starbridge novels and her St Benet’s Trilogy, and also all the Phil Rickman Merrily Watkins books as examples of what you are talking about. I have written a number of articles about great novels on my blog (here’s one: https://scskillman.com/tag/great-novels/ ) and what it is that makes them so powerful. I concluded that it was, in the end, Factor X. No-one can teach you that, no-one can predict that it will happen. It’s all about writing from your inner sense of verity, being true to your own experience of life and your deepest self, and not worrying about what other people will think – that’s when the truly great novelists touch “the spirit of the age.”

    1. Thanks, Sheila – had a look at your post, and I confess I am not a huge classics reader, but the point remains, and I am glad you agree. It’s defintiely what gives a book its X factor.

  5. well the last book truth I took away is that some books should never be written because they shite but the one before was about subverting expectations both in the genre sense but also between the main characters. You on a different blend today because this post was mellow and mature…!!

    1. oh blimey – am I allowed to ask what you read that was so awful?! Haha, maybe I was – actually I dictated the post – does that mean my mouth thinks differently to my fingers? Are my finger brains really the rebellious rule breakers and my mouth brain the compliant societal sheep? *hmm*

  6. I think you’ve hit on something important here, Sacha. Those aha truths are what make the great books memorable and keep me reading. I think the last show-stopper I read was Talion:Revenant by Stackpole, a fantasy novel that doesn’t have a sequel and needs one! The truth was about the purity of intentions behind our actions, that the intention is the only thing that matters.

    1. a fantasy novel without a sequel?!!?! travesty. Write and complain :p.

      Wow, that’s a strong truth, one I will ponder, but I so love that everyone is sharing truths from books and that it’s not just me that picks up on them. You’re so right, I’ve read thousands of books in my life time and its only ever the ones that have some touching truth that I remember.

  7. I love those movies. They all hold such a heart-touching message. Oh, and I can remember very well that when there is a favorite movie it is watched every day… for weeks! My daughter loves Frozen and I don’t know how often she watched it. I have to admit that she is 21 and it is not my problem anymore but the one of her boyfriend…. lol!

  8. Ah, book truths! To me, this is the elixir the hero finds on the journey. It resonates with readers because we are all on our own hero’s journey through life. I’m glad you look at movies, too. As a parent, you are probably in that held-captive-to-Disney phase of life and have plenty of opportunity to explore the stories in films. My fiction writing mentor was also a film critic and he taught me that films more readily show the subtleties fiction writers need to master. You hit upon the biggie here!

    1. Absolutely. I agree – it is that thing that’s so fundamental to the hero and I love a book that can make them have a couple of ‘moments’ throughout the story rather than one epic realisation. OMG I could not agree more. I actually learn as much from films as I do novels. They have 2 hours to do what we have a whole book for. So they have to be better, sharper, more efficient with all their tactics. Films are a gold mine for writers, if we don’t pay attention I think we’re missing a trick.

  9. Many authors have their opinions on how things should be. Many writing rules can and are broken. Not all nonfiction has to be written like fiction, so don’t go apeshit on your work. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! 🙂 <3

    1. Of course not! But I thought it was a brilliant concept and lesson and I’d never thought of it like that. Plus when you read the book he gives a great reason why. But you’re right, I’ve read non fiction written like non fiction that’s fantastic 🙂

  10. I’ve never thought about it from books. However, I tend to see truths more in Movies and TV shows than I do books. The truth from a movie that most sticks with me is that love is invincible regardless of what others may think. The movie is the aptly named ‘Beautiful Thing.’ ❤️

  11. Interesting post, Sacha. I find things to ponder everywhere. Each incoming piece of information has the power to change in some way. What we make of it is what defines us. I haven’t before contemplated the truth in every book, but there is definitely always something to learn, something to help us grow and expand our horizons. Thanks for helping me do that.

  12. Love, love, love: Book Truth! I’ve finished a few books lately, but the one that stuck with me was CHEMICAL PARTICLES by Chrissy Kolaya. The truth there for me is, “Give up the one thing you think you need to make you happy, and everything makes you happy.” For any of us, a too-rigid interpretation of our life’s purpose can leave too much beauty behind.
    I’m working on two novels now, gearing up for my first pitch conference in April, and your post fired me up (in a good way.) Thank you!!

    1. ahhhh you and me both Angela, give up the thing you think makes you happy??????? WHATTTTT???? I am not sure giving up writing would make me happy. I think I’d be miserable! But I understand the philosophy – too often I get so caught up in it I forget to be present, so if I left it behind I’d appreciate a lot more things. huh, maybe I just convinced myself it has a point! So glad the post helped and good luck with the pitching 😀

  13. Ah yes, Planes. That’s is a long standing favorite of my kids too, although they prefer Planes Fire and Rescue because there is both fire and thunderstorms.

    One of the earliest craft books I read when I was first starting out was How to Write a Damn Good Novel, which talks about the importance of writing your story around a premise or that secret inner truth you talk about. It can make the difference in a story being valuable for life for the read versus simply entertaining for the moment.

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