Why fiction writers are not liars

Okay, so the story didn’t really happen, we get it. We also know that all fiction is fantasy, especially since ‘fantasy’ originally meant/means “imaginary or inside one’s head”. But, characters, settings and events are based upon those in the “real” world. Take Charles Dickens, for instance; he’s a brilliant Realist writer who is famed for his accurate representations of Victorian life in his works, in particular London. Even the the characters aren’t real, they remind us of ones who are, and even though he focuses mainly on bleakness and the working classes, it’s not hard to imagine London being like that. But, he isn’t pretending that this is the real London – he knows it’s just his opinion or perception. He’s not saying he’s right or that this is definitely the only way London was, either. The way I see it, you’re only truly lying if you’re trying to present your false story as something genuine. Put another way, he isn’t recording history or facts, he’s just expressing his opinions and sharing his views. If you and your audience know that none of it really happened and that the characters don’t exist, it’s fine. The only trouble with this, however, is if you’re writing memoirs or a biography/autobiography. Because, your memory might not serve as well as you think, and then you might be lying because you’re claiming all these events are true and happened, right down to the last detail. ( another exception might be the majority of The Bible – such as Adam and Eve in Genesis – but most people know by now that this probably isn’t 100% true.) But as for fiction, we can have what are known as universal truths, as in Jane Austen’s line “it is a truth universally acknowledged….”, which are the same but dressed up in different wrapping paper. Sometimes, the truth is in disguise in fiction; you need to look beyond the plot and dig deeper to the core, the message. Are authors still liars, then?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s