Deborah Anderson

In 2000, Deborah Anderson left the medical field to care for her elderly mother. Soon after, she began writing. Her articles have appeared in Cross Times, Focus on the Family, Sisters in the Lord, Riders and Reapers, Rainbow Faith, FaithWriters’ Books, FaithWriters’ Magazine, and the bulletins for Dayspring Foursquare Church. She is a member of TWV, ACFW, CWG, and FCW and is currently working on her first novel. Married 29 years, Deborah and her husband enjoy country living in the Midwest. She also spends her time rescuing cats, reading novels, and taking nature walks. You can contact Deborah at DAnderson955 [at] aol [dot] com.

Truth Hurts in Fiction

“I cannot tell a lie. I did it.”

This quote, supposedly made by George Washington, shaped me greatly as a child. I had no idea, though, how it would affect me as an adult—along with my writing.

One of the first lessons my father ingrained in me was to be honest. I always appreciated the way Dad talked to me. Others threatened me with words like, “Make a face like that again and your face will freeze,” or “If you go out into the street, the boogeyman will get you.”

And folks wonder why I acted the way I did. Sheesh.

Anyway, I remember Dad talking to me about George’s famous declarations one day as we sat in the living room.

“Honey, you must always tell the truth. George Washington did, even when he chopped down his father’s cherry tree.”

I scooted to the edge of my seat. “Really, Dad? What happened?”

“Well, when George’s father asked him what took place with the tree, George said, ‘I cannot tell a lie. I did it.’ So if you’re always honest with me, just as George was with his father, your punishment will be less severe should you ever get into trouble.”

As I sat there, I pondered my father’s words—and George’s. “So, if I always tell the truth, you won’t punish me?”

“No, I’ll still punish you, but it won’t be as bad.”

I decided right there and then that I liked George. I purposed in my heart to speak the truth, according to George and according to my father.

A few years later, as I stood outside the school, talking with some friends, a crazy, wild-eyed girl lunged at me for no reason at all, and I stopped her with my fist. Seconds later, blood streamed from her nose and down the front of her white sweatshirt. I know it’s not ladylike behavior, but I was young. I still like to say that the reason for my insolence was that I was learning self-defense against my three older brothers, the precious lamb chops.

Soon after the incident, the principal escorted me to his office, closed the door, and walked behind his desk. He folded his arms across his chest and stared at me. “Deborah, did you punch Valerie and give her a bloody nose?”

I folded my arms, just as he had moments earlier, and jutted my chin. “Yes, sir, I did.”

His eyes went wide, and then he picked up the phone and called my parents to come and get me. I waited, tapping my foot against the tile floor. Please, remember what you said, Dad.

During the ride home in the car, I listened as Dad talked to Mom. “The principle said that he’s not pleased with her behavior, but he’s happy with her admission. He said it’s rare for a kid to be honest like that.”

I smiled. Good old George.

And Dad, true to his word, kept my punishment less severe.

So what does my story have to do with fiction?


Now I have a hard time making up stories. I can whip off nonfiction quicker than I can blink, but because of the truth ingrained in me as a child, thanks to George and Dad, I struggle when it comes to fiction.

Does this ever happen to you?

Wait. You were probably a much nicer child than I was and didn’t have to go through the whole George-and-the-cherry-tree-thing, so scratch that question.

Not only do I wrestle with making things up, I also don’t hear my characters’ voices (as I’ve heard other authors say they do), see their faces, or have them chase me. No, I have to hunt them down like a mad dog before they’ll even appear in my mind, let alone chase me. As a result, I have to work that much harder.

And you know something else I recently discovered?

I found out that George’s comments were fiction. Supposedly, some biographer added them for dramatic purposes to a story he wrote about George. (Say it ain’t so, George!)

Can you believe that? I was hurt, I tell you, and I can’t imagine what Dad would say.

Oh well, maybe now I won’t struggle so much when it comes to my own writing. I mean, truth doesn’t belong in fiction anyway, right?

Or does it . . .?