Monday, March 2, 2009

Artful Lying

“The fiction writer’s task is not to tell the literal truth, but to lie artfully--to lie so well that the reader’s interest is engaged as if he were reading the truth.” -- Damon Knight in Creating Short Fiction.
I tried writing a fictional story based on a true event. It was boring, and I couldn’t get far enough away from the truth to make it interesting.

The opposite of this is to take an idea that can’t, or is unlikely to, happen and make the reader believe it does. Stephen King comes to mind. Most of what he writes can’t possibly happen. Or can it? I guess that’s why many consider him a master storyteller.

I mentioned my plan to submit a story for critique over the weekend. I did. In the opening scene, a woman steps out of a mirror. She’s the reflection of the main character’s wife, who is dead. So far, no one’s questioned if this could happen. I managed to lie artfully, and I felt good that I did.

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