(In the spirit of Valentines Day…)
“What’s the most important thing in a relationship?”
Many people would agree that the answer is trust, or honesty. Interestingly, the same answer could be given when “relationship” refers to the relationship between an author and his audience. If we did not believe in what the author is saying, why even bother to read or listen to what he has to say? This does not only go with nonfiction, I speak for fiction works too. By “believing in the author” I don’t mean believing that the author is telling facts or giving us an unbiased reality. What I mean is that the audience believes that the author is being honest, that the author has a message he believes in that he wants to convey.
It is not only the audience who is searching for truth in what they receive; the author is searching for truth too in his work. We are all simply searching for truth in life. It is why we care about accuracy of knowledge; it is why we have a justice system; it is why we desire to pursue genuine relationships. We are all chasing truth, and I believe that the reason is that deep inside of us, we all need truth to find joy.
There is no joy without truth. How can we be joyful when we do not even know what to believe in? Yes, sometimes the truth hurts and brings pain, but sorrow and joy can coexist. There is joy that is not circumstantial, and that is the joy that comes from knowing where we belong and who we are.
Truth tells us where we belong. Truth tells us who we are. Truth tells us who we belong with. In life, we are constantly searching for these truths, whether we realize it or not. Somewhere deep inside us we need the answer to these questions in order to make us whole, to satisfy us.
It’s why we value the words of nonfiction authors so much. We crave for truth; it’s why we communicate, why we receive information, why we write, why we read, why we solve problems. And when an author is found to be expressing something that differs from the truth, we feel betrayed. We entrust ourselves to the author and expect nonfiction writers to be at least honest if not vulnerable. We are willing to be vulnerable with the author when we choose to receive what he has to communicate.
One of the reasons why Sarah Koenig’s Serial has become so popular is that there is an obvious search for truth. This is why we like crime stories so much––they lure us in with a hook: a puzzle that needs to be solved by the truth. When this puzzle is about real people and has real-life consequences, it is inevitable that the audience will be even more compelling to know the truth of the story. Truth in fiction is inspiring, but truth in the reality of our lives changes hearts and results in real-life actions. Serial has led to the creation of “FREE ADNAN” t-shirts, #freeadnan fundraising projects, news articles…all for the purpose of honoring (what people believe to be) the truth.
This is why authors have so much authority. Authors are expected to present something that will lead their audience one step closer to finding truth. The audience is letting the author into their minds and giving the author permission to change and mold their thoughts. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Let’s hope that authors use their great authority to become great authors.