THE ART OF THE LIE
-lie. (lai) n. – an intentionally false statement or impression. A purposeful deception.
"We may remember how, in childhood, adults were able to at first look right through us, and into us, and what an accomplishment it was when we, in fear and trembling, could tell our first lie, and made for ourselves, the discovery that we are irredeemably alone in certain respects, and know that within the territory of ourselves, there can be no other footprints."
– R.D. Laing
The Divided Self
I came across this passage recently and marveled at Laing's insight into such a universal human experience ̶ the territory of ourselves, and also the manner in which a simple deceit can create and define that territory. We deceive for many reasons ̶ to protect ourselves, to protect others, or if you are a sociopath, because you can. We lie out of weakness and strength. We lie to our friends, our enemies, our partners, our children, the IRS, and all too often to ourselves. No doubt, the best of us have lied on one occasion or another. I suspect for some of us at certain times a lie is nothing more than an evasion that allows us to retreat into a territory all our own, a place for secrets that never have to be shared.
Many of my characters lie. They lie to avoid facing up to truths. They lie to protect. They lie to deceive an enemy. In Still Life In A Red Dress the character Ray lies because he is unable to face his own culpability and because he feels the truth will destroy his friendship with Sonny. The character Aminta lives a life of duplicity, lying out of love for her country. As a result, she risks losing a chance at love. Lying always has costs.
I admit to satisfaction and even elation when creating a set of imagined circumstances and characters. Any creative process, be it painting, song writing or the fabrication of a story harkens to a "fiction". The writing of fiction is at its base the act of relating a "lie", an elaborate whopper at the least, an artistic verisimilitude at best.
Writers of fiction create from our experiences, issuing versions and echoes of remembrances from our past ̶ events, emotions that molded our sense of self, all of it colored by all that follows. Hemingway said it quite succinctly. "Rightly or wrongly all remembrances of things past is fiction." I couldn't agree more. And along the way, these echoes of our experience are embellished.
Writing fiction allows me to vicariously live a lie. To travel to far off places. To experience danger, love, loss, the entire gamut of emotion ̶ some foreign, some familiar. It allows me admission into a private world in which I can choose to share or not. I live in another's skin. It is much the same for the reader,
None of my stories are based on actual occurrences in my life. However, I do admit to creating characters that are based on actual persons, be it their temperament, their quirks, physical characteristics and even parts of their history. Many of their motivations owe as much to my imagination as to what these real people might do in a particular situation. Many of my settings ̶ hotel rooms, bars, beaches, houses ̶ are actual locales based upon my memories and experiences. The creation of an imagined world requires some degree of detail and an illusion of reality necessary to transport the reader to a place, a situation or to illicit an emotion. At least, that is what I strive to do in my stories ̶ to create a fiction, an elaborate, believable lie. And ultimately create a territory of my own ̶ and for the reader. As to whether I accomplish this, I leave that to you, the reader. That being said, I always welcome comments and critiques from my readers.