I’ve started to think about the panel I’m going to be on at the end of August, One of the themes is likely to be the question of truth in M/s literature. David Stein, who organized the panel and will be on it himself, asserts that M/s fiction is more authoritative if it is firmly rooted in experience with actual master-slave relationships. Without that experience, he believes the novels will tend to exaggerate, mislead and misrepresent the M/s lifestyle, possibly to readers’ detriment.
I’ve mentioned that he first invited me to join the panel and then found out I’d made it all up. However, he liked AST enough to keep the invitation open.
We’ve touched on the “reality vs. fantasy” topic more than once, so I’ll try not to go over old ground. What I’m searching for in this blog (while simultaneously getting a head start on my conference remarks) is an idea of what does constitute “truth” in our kind of fiction. Is its foundation lived experience, as David Stein suggests? And if so, does there need to be an actual collar around your neck for you to know what a collar feels like?
As we’ve said before, fiction is – well -- fiction. An invention. The challenge is to write it powerfully enough that it conveys some form of truth to the reader. How do we do this? Is it contemporary settings and believable plots? Realistic, layered characters? Natural-sounding dialogue? What about a finely-drawn texture of detail to ground the tale? Detail that never distracts with inconsistencies or absurdities? What about language that says what it means, conveying images or sensations that burst in your brain?
Or is it emotional truth we’re seeking? Perhaps a character’s feelings that chime with your own, or a sense that the author has dug deep and brought something to the surface, articulated something meaningful and rare?
All of these suggestions would apply to any genre of literature, of course. But how do they apply to M/s? Well, accuracy when it comes to the bondage details, that’s for sure. No suspension from handcuffs. Layered characters whose responses and relationships rise above the usual bdsm clichés, and who can talk about what they do with some intelligence and wit.
I’ve never been inclined toward philosophical abstractions; I’m more likely to discover meaning after the fact than to search for it beforehand. Whatever truth there may be in my own writing is likely based on a deep sifting of my own emotions, as well as empathy and extrapolation when it comes to the emotions of others. I don’t discount the rest of the writer’s reality toolkit; it’s all important. But emotional truth is, for me, the core of truth in fiction. As long as I can dredge that up, someone is going to read what I write and say “yes.”
What about you? Tell us about a moment of d/s literary truth, and how you knew when it hit you.