Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fiction and Lies

This morning reading Moonrat's blog, I was thrust up against a sentiment I've encountered time and again since I started this writing thing. Basically, she sums up a conversation between a publisher and his sales manager during which writing fiction is likened to lying.

To paraphrase Spencer Tracy in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: that is a statement with which I'm prepared to take issue. (In fact, I cut my morning blogroll short because of it.)

First off, let's get something straight. Lying is deliberately misleading someone else to gain something positive or to avoid something negative. Writing fiction is creating a a story for others which they know up front never really happened.

I've heard it said that fiction writers lie for a living. That sentiment pisses me off royally.

I write fiction folks. I do not lie. I don't pretend my stories are anything but snippets of my imagination written out on paper. Sure, truth can be written into fiction, but truth is never cheapened when one weaves it into a story (or no one would ever listen to Aesop).

James Frey, on the other hand, told people his fiction was real. He published it as non-fiction. He was trying to put something over on his readers. He was trying to gain something positive by misleading his readers - namely money and fame (which he got both of, even after his dishonesty was dragged into the light). If that ain't lying for a living, I don't know what is.

We fiction writers need to stand firm on this issue. If something throws the old fiction=lying thing at you, slap it down. It's not cute. It's sure as hell isn't funny. Saying our chosen occupation is to lie to people cheapens the work we put into our writing, and it throws a negative light around who we are as human beings. You wouldn't allow anyone to call you a liar in your day-to-day life, why then is it okay to refer to our life's work as a pack of lies?

And don't even get me started on some of the comments to Moonrat's post - comments which I just now read. It seems that this idea of fiction as lying has been around long enough that people just accept it as fact without thinking about what the statement really says about their work. Someone even quoted Stephen King as agreeing with it. (Not that I'm surprised. The poor man has some major flaws in his philosophy, but I won't go into that now. He's a hell of a writer, and it's depressing that he allows anyone to belittle his work - even himself.)

If you write fiction, be proud of what you do, dammit. Don't let anyone tell you you're less than what you are, and don't let anyone ANYONE make you believe that you're dishonest.

Feh. The nerve. Makes me wanna slap whoever started this upside the head.

Now back to your regularly scheduled morning...

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