Telling lies for a living

Why we write

There is nothing wrong with telling lies for a living. Writers of fiction are not the only ones who do it. So long as there is no intent to commit fraud or harm, why should we not? After all, it is not only writers who tell lies for a living. Poets, artists, singers and songwriters, actors, commedians…

Why do we love these liars, buy their books, music, art and movies? Because we find value in suspending our disbelief, opening our hearts and minds to their lies and finding that most valuable kernel of truth.

A different kind of true

Stories are

True stories can sound unbelievable. Though often based on truth, they must often be ‘massaged’ by a writer for various reasons, including:

  • protection the innocent or the family or friends of the innocent… the identity of the person or persons involved who may not appreciate the fame or notoriety;
  • providing the story with a background which ‘makes sense’;
  • to bestow a richly deserved ‘happy-ever-after’; or
  • deliver your ‘character’ the karma they deserve because the slippery eel avoids everything they deserve in real life…;
  • making sense of an event which the writer cannot understand in reality;
  • because the reality sounds far-fetched; and/or
  • to avoid legal proceedings for defamation, slander etc.

Which have you done in the course of your writing or come across in your reading?




Yes. Guilty. I read the dictionary. For fun.

Why? I love finding new words to use, coming across old friends I’ve forgotten and learning a word for an idea when I hadn’t known one existed. Zoetic Words are my favourite..

Wonderful words I come across which I’d forgotten all about, or learning the different nuances of meaning expressed by variations of the same root word.

Every home needs a good dictionary and not only for playing the dictionary game (for how to play see Fictionary) or Scrabble. Gift suggestion – a beautiful big dictionary. They are not cheap to buy but make a beautiful addition to a home library. Not something a lot of people, except writers and editors, buy for themselves.

I once gave a gorgeous big gold-edged dictionary as a wedding present to a couple I knew, new Australians whose first language was not English. I was so chuffed when, some time later, the groom thanked me and said it was one of the best presents they received. The bride confirmed that he definitely sat down to read it at every available opportunity. My kind of people.

Do you also look up new words you come across when reading? I do. Modern technology makes it so easy when reading online or on Kindle etc with built-in dictionaries.


Truth in lies (1)

Skilful story artists, whether novelist, lyricist, poet or screenwriter, create a deeper, more profound truth using ‘the lie’.

Where does that ‘lie’ come from? In my experience, it percolates in the heart and soul. They take an idea which impacts me deeply, then bubble and boil away until a character, a situation, or a plot emerges, combining to symbolise the heart of a story. My current work in progress centres around the issue of domestic violence.

Using a succession of ‘what if’ questions, using all the empathy and imagination I can muster, I come up with the bare bones of a number of storylines and plots.

From there I research and brainstorm the subject, fleshing it out using a combination empathy, imagination and personal experience, stories I’ve read, heard, seen played out in the lives of others: friends, family or reports in the media, movies, songs until a series of scenes and scenarios emerge.

Distilled over a (usually long) period of time, what I’m aiming for is a blueprint I can use to tell the story of my main characters using their goals, motivations and conflict to concentrate the emotions involved. They struggle, in my current story, against domestic violence, while others see it from all sides.

My aim? Creating empathy in the reader, telling a cracking story which helps them think about and understand the issues and see how people deal with them. The ‘lie’ which, I hope, reveals the truth.