I love Pinocchio. It’s a great coming-of-age tale, inspirational and hopeful, plus it has a cricket as a major character (ha!). But I also love it because I’m a lying liar. No comments on the size of my nose, please.
All fiction writers are liars. We make up people, situations, places, events, timelines, and may introduce magic, vampires and werewolves as well as other fantasy elements. We can seriously mess with science or even rewrite history. Our kind of lying is tricky, though, because the folks we lie to know we’re doing it. They actually seek out the stories we create.
Notice I didn’t say they seek out our untruths. That’s because fiction, though not true by definition, must be True in a larger sense. It doesn’t have to be believed; it has to be believable. Another tricky bit to manage.
I have a writing friend who was a reporter for many years. The research for his historical baseball mystery is meticulous. Every game he uses in the book was actually played with the players he names. In fact, the actual plays were made. The streets, the food, the police uniforms – really everything about the atmosphere is exact and accurate. Even the jargon is spot on. All that lends a great deal to the believability of his story.
Another writing friend makes up everything he can, even though he may use real people and places as part of his stories. But because he never fudges with things like cause and effect, coincidence or acts of God, his stories make sense and are, again, believable and therefore entertaining.
I sit on the fence. The small town that my Home Crafting Mysteries are set in is based on a real town, but I “fictionalize” it because it gives me more freedom. I want the leeway to make some things up as I go along, yet I don’t have to create all the details. The fourth in the series, Something Borrowed, Something Bleu is set in a different town, also based on a real town and fictionalized. In the acknowledgements I note that if anyone recognizes the town they should know that the sheriff’s department operates differently because I made the town much smaller than it actually is.
My characters feel real to me, especially the series characters, and there are simply things they won’t or can’t do. For example, my main character, Sophie Mae Reynolds, is a terrible liar. Everyone says so, and she believes it. And sometimes she is awkward when trying to lie. But actually she’s the best kind of liar because she incorporates as much truth into her lies as possible so she doesn’t really think of it as lying. That makes it much more effective.
Kind of like fiction.
Her mother is a pretty good liar, though, or at least Sophie Mae thinks so. So in this latest book, which involves a trip back to her hometown in Colorado to investigate her brother’s suicide note which surfaced after eighteen years, Sophie Mae thinks a lot about lying. How to do it well. How not to get caught. It’s like a goal for her.
And she does get better at it. I wonder how that will backfire later? Because I can already tell it will.
I’ve been tagged a couple of times with the four-truths-and-one-lie challenge, and I’ve yet to step up. I can’t decide whether that’s because I don’t want to tell the lie or because I don’t want to reveal four truths. Maybe if I make the lie thoroughly boring it won’t stand out from the truths.
How do you feel about lying? Are you good at it? Do you feel guilty? And what about characters in books lying: Is it good or bad or simply a matter of what the story demands – like in Pinocchio?