Fiction writers must have a colorful imagination to be successful, said author
Tim O’Brien in a speech on campus Oct. 21. O’Brien spoke as part of Humanities Month.
His Vietnam War book “The Things They Carried” was chosen as this year’s OCCC Reads
selection, with free copies available in the library.
The biggest takeaway this author, and professor at Southwest Texas State University, tried
to convey to his audience was in the words of Pablo Picasso: “Art is a lie that makes us realize
the truth.” O’Brien said a good story is specific, not generalized. It does not moralize but yet tells
the reader how to live a life.
Stories have the power to console and embody the reader while helping them feel the world freshly, O’Brien said.
Lastly, stories embody the innermost desires of the readers and reminds them that they are a part of something mysterious.
O’Brien labeled himself as nothing more than “a guy that writes stories.”
“I chose fiction because I am not limited to what happened; my options are endless,” he said.
When writing fiction, writers should not be afraid to lie.
“Lying is a noble virtue for fiction authors,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien served in the Vietnam War in the summer of 1968 and many of the stories in “The Things They Carried” in one way or another tie back to experiences he endured while in that Southeast Asia country.
The thing he consistently went back to was that by being a fiction writer, he was able to escape the confinement of what really happened.
He could write what could have happened, unleashing an infinite number of story possibilities.