“Two sides to every story” is a phrase I hear thrown around a lot—in politics, relationships, history…and writing.
Authors talk all the time about showing “both” sides to a conflict or event in their stories. While I give them partial credit, that’s a little under-ambitious.
In real human events—wars, kids’ soccer games, elections, marriages, Supreme Court trials, first dates, and everything else—there is a lot more going on than either group will know/realize/admit.
I don’t believe “two sides” ever gives a whole story.
I would even say there are no “sides,” only the perception of sides.
In a family argument, members might split into two factions, but each person will probably have their own take on why they’re fighting at all.
What I see in arguments is people tend to split into two groups with their own (mostly true) versions of the situation. But neither is the whole truth or pure truth. Omission and falsehoods inevitably get thrown in.
As someone who writes almost entirely from single perspectives, it can be hard to express complicated scenarios. I try to show that there are things the protagonist doesn’t understand/know, but it’s really up to the reader to spot that.
Every story we read is but a slice of a much bigger story.
Even the most in-depth, detailed tome leaves out more than it includes. The fact is, it’s simply impossible to know everything that happened, even for the author, even in an imaginary tale.
The exact slant of wrinkles in the skin, the instant a person made up their mind, the number of door mice beneath a hardwood floor, the sharpness of the tools used to harvest the tea on the table—something is always unknown.
Unknowns may be great or small, but they are never absent.
When it comes to the “whole” story, the protagonist doesn’t know, the writer may not know, and the reader can only guess.
Mystery is one reality that no fiction can change.