Let’s start off with a truth. I didn’t want to write this blog tonight. I sat down, ready to go at it, when I discovered that horror author and all around nice guy Rick Hautala (http://www.rickhautala.com/) had passed away. There are veterans of any writing industry that are a genuinely positive and uplifting force to everyone around them, and Rick was one of them. If you weren’t friends with him, then it simply meant that you weren’t friends with him yet. He had that smile and attitude that just made the world seem brighter. And I feel terribly saddened by his passing, even though we smiled at one another in passing and spoke a few times at this convention or that. He was just that kind of person.

But, rather than delaying this post, I figured I’d honor Rick… not just by writing, but by paying forward what men and women like Rick have done for writers by being ambassadors for their respective communities. So, I’m going to expand this week’s commandment to encompass a lesson that applies to whatever your writing of choice may be.

The job of the writer is to write the truth. Or as veteran author, best-seller, teacher, scholar, and gentleman/cad Mort Castle once told me:

The job of the writer is to point at something. It is not to point at his own hand pointing at something.

At the time, I took that to mean that the author’s job is to get out of the way of his or her own story. But here today, it also means write the truth. Write the truth as unfiltered as you can manage. I mean, I’m not going to pretend that we don’t write to whatever agenda or lens that filters our perceptions and politics, but I think that as writers we must also pose questions and situations as well and not just impress opinions upon others.

But what does write the truth mean? It sounds daunting, doesn’t it, the truth this great monolithic thing that could slump the shoulders of Atlas himself under its weight. The truth, however, is all about finding that one thing that you want to say (no matter how small), polishing it, and putting it on a pedestal. It can be as political as the debate on gun control or as small as your character’s reaction to events. It’s all about finding something that resonates with other people, and not alienating the audience while presenting your take on it… unless alienating them is the truth you’re showcasing.

Now, write the truth is a tricky thing when you’re writing for an industry like videogames, or writing for any contracted work, because chances are you’re writing to the sensibilities of the person who signs your cheques. This is where being a writer is important, because it means mustering your creative juices to come up with innovative solutions. And in entertainment companies like videogame production houses, if you can maintain the integrity of the game while keeping the subtext of your message, you will be a god.

When it comes to games, it’s not that the industry isn’t concerning with truth. Their truths are just varied, be it a cover mechanic that feels natural as it slips from first-person to third, or AI reacting with believable tactics like a fluid chess match, or any number of operating systems that try to bring you as close to the brink of realism as possible without breaking the fantasy. When it comes to narrative, however, the process is so tumultuous that the industry has a habit of settling on things for the sake of facility and expediency. Settling is code for the easiest solution in terms of time and cost, no matter how that may affect the story. It’s your job not to buck this with denial, obstinacy, and anger (been there, done that, got the white hairs), it’s your job to figure out some way to salvage the situation.

It may not be a fight you can always win, but damn if you can’t walk away with some beautiful victories.

If you’re writing for yourself as a novelist, or short story writer, or even blogger, however, then you have far more creative freedom and responsibility to tell the truth. And to stop pointing at your own hand pointing at something. So…

…thank you Mort Castle for the lessons you taught me. I seriously need to thank you in person for one of the biggest epiphanies of my career. And thank you to Rick Hautala for being there for so many writers. We may never be able to thank you enough, but thanks to ambassadors like you, we’re in positions to pay your generosity forward.