Saturday, July 16, 2005

Devas T., children's liarist

Liar—liar—pants on fire! I've never considered myself much of a liar. When it comes to telling a fib, I'm like George Washington and the cherry tree, I just didn't do it. For that reason, it's a rare occasion you'll catch a brotha bearing false witness against his neighbors. But "white lies" are different.
"Honey," I'd lie through my teeth. "That eggplant and greenbean casserole, your ancient and sacred family recipe is absolutely delicious." "White lies" keep a brotha's marriage on solid ground. But a 250-page, book-length lie is quite something different all together. Or is it?

More experienced writers have probably already considered the question, sitting at literary round tables, author panels, critique groups and message boards. But not till last night, as I typed the synopsis of a teen fiction novel, that the question came clear in my mind: Aren't fiction writers actually creators of voluminous fabrications—or real big lies? One lie leads the reader to another lie, which covers the weakness of yet another lie, which offers an explanation of still another lie. These combinations of lies will cause some type of conflict which inevitably will culminate in some type of resolution. Is our culture so accustomed to lying that it has become acceptable when used to entertain or edify?

Here's how defines the word:

fiction: fic·tion

A literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.
feigning or of creating with the imagination

Succinctly put, fiction is a lie. I've met many authors, writers for children and adults, during the tenure of my children's book career. That means I've met probably hundreds of very nice, smart, highly-educated, well paid, good intentioned morally upright, liars. Are smarmy smiles real? Are warm greetings simply fabricateded mirages performed by talented liars? How can you trust someone who makes a career out of telling really big lies? And a used car salesmen has a bad rap. Hmm, ponder that.

How does one walk in integrity, profess their morality, and espouse the virtues of honesty and uprightness, while offering their lies for sale at a price?

So, where am I going with this? Nowhere. I'm busy and don't have time to ponder it any further. I'm just thinking out loud, but if there's one thing I've discovered about myself in my attempts at writing a novel: I am one good liar. And I kind of like it.

Sorry, I gotta get back to developing my outline. The big lie.


Christopher M. Beatrice said...

lol this is very funny. Never really thought about it but ya they are lies. Well humm that is just to funny.

The Archivist said...

Actually, DevasT, that might be a good plot for your book!

The Gig said...

LOL,LOL,LOL -- lying -- eh, here's the way I describe it.
"That's telling number nine," as my number three granddaughter put it so many times back when she was approximately three years old and I taught her the ten commandments in kid's language. You are funny.

NjDivaGirl said...

I've thought of this often. It's kind of hard to define a lie (or the truth). I mean honestly, have you ever told your version of a story only to find out that some of the facts were a little skewed. Why did this happen? It is because we interpret events differently. A description of a single event described by various people may differ widely. It may not be a lie, but it wouldn’t be the truth either. I prefer to call fiction interpretation.

ShellyP said...

Can't say I agree with you on this post. A lie is something that is deliberately being presented as true with the intent to deceive. Fictional stories, based on the category, is in fact true advertising - no deception there.

notyouraverage.... said...

funny post!.

so you're just a really good story teller - no harm in that!

Jdid said...

I've thought about this before, so true. I guess to take it further my question would be does a lie really matter if no one gets hurt?

G. Cornelius Harris said...

Love the post...Keep the knowledge coming old wise one...LOL...I'll keep you posted

Rinda M. Byers said...

You do bring up the interesting questions, Don!

I tend to think of a lie in the old Biblical sense whenwhen a person gets deceived and gets hurt or harmed as a deliberate consequence of the lie by somebody else.

Since we know works of fiction are by definition things that are not factual, not true in a factual sense (and since you have to be careful to make sure that your fiction doesn't resemble real people, real situations anyway due to risk of lawsuits...), we are not being decieved, deliberately, I think, when we pick up a book of fiction. So, I can't call an author or writer a liar. A creative inventor, yes!

What I get nervous about are nonfiction books that get so inventive that authors don't check facts or make wrong interpretations of facts or go so far as to invent things that never were true, (this is sometimes called faction. ) Way back when, in newspapers, this sort of faction got called "yellow journalism," which meant it was basically slander, libel, lies, you name it. But fiction? Well, now, I expect you to tell me some inventions, okay? Some whoppers wil be just fine with me any day!

Rinda M. Byers

Luke Cage said...

Hey Don, first the post was funny. I chuckled at your cool seque into writers, critique groups and the like being able and skilled liars. But I would probably have to disagree with you there. I don't think that you are anymore of a liar than I am because of the fiction that we write.

Let me explain. As writers, especially those of the fictional variety, I don't know if it's an art of deception so much as it's suspension of disbelieft. And why do we call the latter that? Because suspension of disbelief is a willingness of a reader or of a viewer as well to actually "suspend" their most critical faculties virtually to the extent of bypassing and not looking at the minor (or major) inconsistencies so as to enjoy that work of fiction.

We know that a man cannot have the proportionate strength of a spider. But the creators of Spider-man, they created a world, through their writing that allowed us to actually "believe" at least thru comics that this can actually happen to a human who's been bitten by a radioactive spider. That he can gain his powers. And that he can spin powerful proportionate spider-webs. We buy into that because of S.O.D., but it's not what I would call a lie.

I don't call that a lie so much as I call it, make believe. We are not trying to "lie" per se' to the reader and viewer, we are simply extending the boundaries of our reality into the fictional world to make it believable. Where things like this cannot possibly happen, but we are led to believe that they can. Good post. Got me thinking too early on a Monday morning.

**RPM** said...

But wait wait wait Don...

Isn't a lie knowingly assembled to dissuade or mislead someone? Fiction is trying to dissuade or misled. By nature of it's genre, it's understood that the following is a story. Unlike a lie - which is projected to be truth. Something that actually happened.

Of course I'm fiercely defending this because I write a lot of fiction and don't want to wear the Scarlet L on my chest.

Jez Chill said...

I suspect fiction is a whole lot more interesting than fact. I wonder how kids would grow up if we told them the truth. "You'll have less job security with a job."