Tim O’ Brien maintains that keeping readers of fiction entertained is a most daunting task, “The problem with unsuccessful stories is usually simple: they are boring, a consequence of the failure of imagination- to vividly imagine and to vividly render extraordinary human events, or sequences of events, is the hard-lifting, heavy-duty, day-by-day, unending labor of a fiction writer” (Tim O’ Brien 623)....
After years of teaching the nonfiction of the Vietnam War, it is my students who continually remind me of a simple truth about this literature, and indeed all literature, if it is worth studying: it is the people, the characters, or the human beings, that hold their interest, fascinate them, and evoke their empathy, and it is through the characters that they come to understand some truths about the Vietnam War.
In this quote, Tim O’Brien is speaking like he is in the story.
Yet even if it didhappen - and maybe it did, anything's possible - even then youknow it can't be true, because a true war story does not dependupon that kind of truth.
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Because “How to Tell a True War Story” is told from a first-person perspective and O’Brien is an actual Vietnam veteran, a certain authenticity to this story is added.
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That is why to O’Brien another important component of a war story is the fact that a war story will never pin down the definite truth and that is why a true war story “never seems to end” (O’Brien, 425).
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Curt Lemon dies (guess everyone who dies has a color-related name?), which leads O'Brien to tell us that truth is flexible in war. The things that happen in war are so crazy that literal truth can't possibly capture them. Only emotional truth, or "story-truth," can, and O'Brien uses it liberally. Tim kills a guy on a trail and feels guilty about it, so he makes up a back-story for the kid in order to make the victim more human.
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Rat Kiley tells us the creepiest story in the world, "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," in which a good down-home American girl is seduced by the Vietnam War into becoming a creepy jungle killer. Later, Kiowa drowns in a field that's literally full of poop, and we start to talk about blame. Then, in "Good Form," O'Brien tells us that almost the entire book is made up, including parts that he claimed elsewhere were true.
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Then, in "The Lives of the Dead," O'Brien tells us how he started to tell stories in the first place—to bring a nine-year-old girl named Linda, whom he loved, back to life—and how that method of storytelling still works, both to save the war dead and to save himself.