Honesty is the Best Policy was the title of the first ever debate I took part in at my secondary school, West Calder High School. I’d come through S1 and in S2 was allowed to stay on after hours to attend things like debating societies and drama clubs organised in part by pupils, but mostly by our peerless Head of English, Doctor Lillian MacQueen.
My contribution to the debate involved a gentle ribbing of one of the fourth year boys, are you reading this Charles Rigg, about the quality of his recent haircut. While I might have one opinion of the haircut, I said, I might find it kinder to say something else. It raised a huge laugh and my school career in debating was launched.
Novelists, dramatists and other fiction writers, have much experience of this double-edge. Too strict an adherence to the facts and you’re writing reportage: too great a departure from human nature and no reader will believe in your characters.
However, I would argue that we do have a duty to honesty in writing our stories. The honesty we need to practise is to the central truth of our story. Never, ever end with the cop-out line – It was all a dream. Avoid miraculous personality changes such as only happen in real life after catastrophic head injury. Never, ever, write what you think your mum would like to read.
Believe me, you don’t know what your mum would like to read.