Writers. We’re the biggest liars in the world.
Let me clarify this. There are liars and then there are LIARS. Then there are fibbers and half-truthers.
I would love to explain, but honestly, I can’t. Okay, I’m lying. I can.
I’m sure you’ve heard reference to this at some point, that writers are liars and all that jazz. Many people have said it. Stephen King did. As did Neil Gaiman. As a matter of fact, Neil Gaiman wrote these words in Sandman, Vol. 3:
“Writers are liars, my dear, surely you know that by now?”
Yes, you probably know that by now, but let’s get moving. I’m going to try to keep this short.
I’ve stated before that there is no such thing as real content any longer. We’ve either seen, heard, done, tasted, said everything there is to see, hear, do, taste, and say. Now, it’s all about seeing, hearing, doing, tasting, and saying things differently. That’s where all of the originality is. With the internet (and its many lies, but that is for a different time) we can go almost anywhere and see almost anything and never leave the confines of our home, so the things we can see, hear, do, taste and say are limitless.
Writers (and really all artistic people) take the things that they have seen, heard, done, tasted and said and put them to words. They take the black and white and make vibrant colors out of them. Yes, writers paint pictures with their words. A lot of our experiences are put into our fiction. We’ll take the eyes of this person and put it with the hair from that one and the lips from this one and the nose from that person over there and the body type from that person sitting down on the park bench feeding the pigeons, to create our characters. We’ll give them personality traits from people we know, whether we realize it or not.
We do the same thing with settings. We may have seen a creepy house along an old dirt road with a door hanging on by one hinge and all but one pane of glass busted out. That becomes a setting for a story. Or maybe just a scene in a story. However, we create a history for that creepy house. It may involve an abusive relationship or the murders of several people, maybe even children. Maybe their ghosts are still trapped inside that creepy house. We don’t know the history of the house, so why not make it up? Why not lie about it?
We do it with plots and we do it with dialogue and we do it with the resolutions of the stories. We do it throughout our fiction. But we use real components from our lives as the cornerstones of everything we write. We use the seen, heard, done, tasted and said that we’ve experienced.
Sometimes writers will tell a story to remember it, but we take those memories and turn them into lies. Sure, a good chunk of it might be true, but the facts get tweaked and turned and twisted and, will you look at that, what was once a truth is now not so much truth or lie, but life as we told it. We’ll take something we’ve seen that we can’t unsee or forget and add a little something to keep it from being one hundred percent true. We’ll take what we’ve heard, the way it was heard, the tones and even the background noises, and change something—a word, a tone, a background sound—and the truth is now a half-truth. We use the things we’ve done, good or bad, and sometimes we only change one component, but we change it in some way. You get the picture, right? Yeah, we do this with taste and said as well. But we don’t forget. No, writing is often the big reminder and the act of writing is the therapy that no shrink can provide.
Speaking of therapy, trauma is a huge factor in writing and sometimes we tell these stories to cope with hurt, pain, sadness, depression, illnesses, loneliness, anger and plenty of other emotions. In this case, the writing is a ‘getting it out’ thing; it’s a cleansing. Sometimes after the story is written we feel better. Other times, well the pain is still there, but the story is out and that’s not a bad thing. Usually these stories are more truth than lies, but the lies are still there.
Now, let’s take a minute to talk about these liars. Clearly, best-selling authors are great at it. They are the real LIARS. They are the ones who have turned lying into an art form. They also get paid a lot of money for those lies. Then you have those who are part time liars. The majority of writers fall in this category. Those are the ones who have full-time jobs and write when time allows. Those are the ones who dream of one day becoming one of the real LIARS and quitting their day job to write and get paid to do so. These are the ones who still have a true passion for writing. They haven’t reached the pinnacle of success, but they keep trying. Then there are the fibbers. These are the people who tell lies, but not very often. They might want to more than they do, but they don’t, either because of time or dedication or lack of passion.
Finally, there’s the little white-liars (or half-truthers). Most of us start off here. It’s that stage at the beginning of a writing career where the individual either decides to pursue writing or not. It’s where passion is either born or buried. It is one of the most influential stages for a writer and can grow very fast or can be crushed beneath the weight of criticism or lack of confidence.
I told you I would make it quick. I need to go now. I have some dreams to chase and some lies to tell. Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.