Sunday, August 18, 2013

Writing and lying

Nathan Bransford does a writing blog I like to check in with. A while ago he wrote a post about how writing and lying have a lot in common. For both, you are using words to try to get someone to believe something that is not true.

Both a good story and a good lie need details and believability to succeed. A liar needs to spin the tail with minute details. They have to do so in such a way to make perfect sense, to make it believable. Branford says a good liar can “make you feel the sun on their face and the cool splash of water on their arms as they're catching the big one that got away.” A good writer can do the same.

With a well-written story, you tear up at the death of a green 900 year-old Jedi warrior, or reel when Dementors fly overhead. Readers suspend belief when first entering a story. To stay there is difficult with a poorly crafted piece.

An author must establish the reality of illusion. The illusion is maintained through the many facets that make a story: the prose the writer uses, the authenticity of characters and their emotions and motivation, the dialogue, etc. If not written well, the reader is pulled out of the story, the lie is exposed.

If you want to be a better writer, you should learn to be a more believable lair.

(This article also posted at

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