Monday, 25 November 2019

Learning about honesty writing about honesty

My new novel is out next week. A second novel, another modern-day parable hot on the heels of The Baggage Handler, which I’m humbled to say was named as the best Christian debut novel of 2019. (My publishers make me say that …)

It's called The Camera Never Lies. 

I wanted my next modern-day parable to cover the issue of truth. We live in a post-truth world where honesty can be sometimes subjective, and sometimes denigrated. And the best place to explore the concept of honesty – in a context that is most relatable to us all – is in our closest relationships.

What would you do if your secrets were revealed to those closest to you?

I asked myself this question before I started writing my new novel, The Camera Never Lies.  I also asked that same question of a number of people around me as part of my research for the book. Their responses – as well as mine – surprised me. I think deep down, we’d expect that our answer would automatically be: ‘of course, I’d happily manage the situation, and come clean.’

But very few responses went like that. The responses I got ranged from a shy silence to an aggressive narrowing of the eyes. All good research that went into the novel.

This is why I write modern-day parables. The Baggage Handler started a number of conversations about people’s baggage, and why they carry it. I got a lot of messages from people thanking me for helping them see what was slowing them down. A story had cracked the cover people had placed over their baggage.

So back to writing The Camera Never Lies… a lot of those research conversations stopped as the defenses went up. So I’ve built a story around the concept of honesty – particularly in relationships – and if you read The Camera Never Lies you’ll discover a few secrets about secrets that I uncovered. And you might learn from some major mistakes made by the protagonist – a marriage counselor who encourages others to be honest while hiding his own secrets.

1. Keeping secrets is tiring

I spoke with a range of pastors and counselors in the research phase of the book. They all agreed on one point – that keeping secrets and hiding truth takes a lot out of you.

My protagonist ties himself in knots trying to keep the truth buried, and it takes its toll. A big, big toll.  I’m sure you know someone that is trying to be something they’re not, or be someone they’re not, and you can see – as I do with some people around me – that it’s taking it out of them. All the pastors I spoke to talked of the relief people felt when they realized keeping secrets wasn’t good for them, and they opened their arms to truth.

2. The truth hurts

This comment came from one particular pastor I spoke to. Sometimes the reason people bury truth is because they can’t face the truth. It’s painful. It can dredge up past indiscretions we’d prefer were forgotten. It can bring back how much we wish we hadn’t taken a particular action.

But acknowledging the truth allows to embrace it and move on. A good friend of mine – a grief counselor – quotes John 8:32 to clients in her rooms who are determined to avoid truth: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

In the writing process, I found myself analyzing the things I was keeping under the surface … and why. Releasing that truth, as harsh as it might have appeared to have been, brought enormous relief.

3. Truth will win out

This one I find fascinating. We seem to have a number of key business and political figures here in Australia who seem to think that they can say anything as if truth doesn’t matter (you may have similar examples in your own country). And the one thing I notice is that in each case, the truth DOES come out, even if it’s eventually. The TV shows accused of fakery are pulled from the air. The politician claiming no knowledge is forced out when their lack of knowledge is disproved. Dare I say it … the prince who is currently backpedalling at a million miles an hour as facts emerge?

I see that in the people around me as well. From the smallest fibs to the biggest lies, truth does have a way of wriggling free. So why not embrace it, saving all that grief in the meantime?

My hope is that the reader will read The Camera Never Lies and start to think about the concept of truth in their life, like thoughts about baggage were prompted by The Baggage Handler. And I really do hope that they’ll see the benefits of truth in a new, refreshing way. Not just within them, but those around them.

And if you're a writer, what do you learn about the topics you write about? By that, I don't just mean historical romance, but what do you learn about the challenges your characters face?

About David Rawlings

David Rawlings is an award-winning author based in South Australia. His first novel, The Baggage Handler, published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, was named best debut Christian novel of 2019 in the Christy Awards. He writes modern-day parables that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face. 

You can find David at:


  1. Thanks for sharing truths and discoveries from your research and experience, David. There is much to be said for the power of truth revealed through stories - fictional or otherwise - for authors and readers alike. Sometimes the hard truths unveil themselves; sometimes the most wonderful revelations leap off the page. It's right up there among those intangible benefits that make the writing journey so interesting and rewarding despite the challenges.

  2. Wow. It's going to be a challenging read. Good on you for delving into such important topics. I love how you've done research, too. I've no doubt it will get people thinking and talking (it's already got me thinking just reading this about the book!)