I, Witness
Thursday, Jan 26th, 2012

The Totally Truthful Lie

I’m fascinated with the idea of a ghost life.

We’ve all had close encounters. The plane you were in hit fierce turbulence, or you fell asleep at the wheel only to snap awake as your tires hit the gravel lining the shoulder of the road.

But what if you didn’t?

What if the turbulence actually resulted in that plane going down? What if your car actually rolled and your life is in its last few seconds?

What if right after that disaster happened, your brain kept firing and, like a dream, came up with a different scenario altogether, something more palatable than shedding your mortal coil? It’s not so far-fetched is it? The persistence of hope is, after all, what separates us from all those other warm-blooded creatures roaming around (even more than thumbs). Maybe that persistence extends to your mind’s reluctance to let go, to admit defeat in the face of certain loss.

If that were the case, your mind would right now be weaving an elaborate tapestry to convince you that you were not really flattened in a field somewhere, or bleeding out on the side of a road. The tapestry would have to be amazingly detailed. I mean, you get on the subway and two gen-Xers are discussing fashion week. Your mind would have to make that conversation up out of whole cloth. It would have to dig out long-buried pieces of information gleaned from the one Glamour you ever read, or the one Discovery channel show you watched about the fashion world. Your mind couldn’t screw up any small detail or you’d suddenly awake to the conscious reality, the pain and realization of your own demise. It would have to construct the Totally Truthful Lie.

In other words, your mind would have to do the work of a great fiction writer.

Hemingway used to talk about writing “good and truly.” Good I get; that’s craftsmanship. But what I think he meant about “truly” was verisimilitude–the “ring” of authenticity. I believe he meant that as writers, we need to construct dialog that is totally believable to the ear. We need to paint scenery that makes sense to the mind’s eye and even transports the reader to a specific place and time. We need to develop relationships that seem familiar, that echo people’s real experiences. We need to, in short, come up with the Totally Truthful Lie. It’s a complete fabrication, but it needs to seem completely correct and true.

That’s what I’ve attempted to do with my short stories and the never-ending novel I’m working on. You can be the judge of how successful I’ve been by downloading and reading one my latest story, Off The Map (OffTheMap). Let me know what you think. Maybe I’ve just been hit by a bus and my mind is just spinning a career as a writer.

Wouldn’t surprise me none, but this sure all seems true to me.

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