Storytelling is great as long as you call it fiction, when it is.
Is it truth or fiction? Is it news or a calculated lie?
The question of fact or fiction can be a painful one for the storyteller in the family, and my family has been blessed with storytellers. I love to tell a story, just can’t help myself. So I have plenty of experience with this both as part of the audience in my youth, and now as the storyteller in my middle age. I don’t want to call the Bard a liar, nor myself, so I’m quick to call a story fiction.
When the story’s finished, my grown daughters have taken to asking me, “so, is this a true story?” “Yes, not at all, somewhat”–any of these responses preserve the magic of a good story, as long as the response is the truth. The truth as far as I’m able to discern it.
It is the truth that is the scaffold, the raw material woven into the fiction, that makes the story great, I think. We all know that advice, “write what you know”.
Some people, mentally disoriented or ill, fail to understand where the line between truth and fiction is drawn. I’ve even heard that everything we recall and retell is fiction in a sense, as it is biased. It has filtered through our personal set of experiences, desires, needs, hopes, dreams, by the time we share it again, reshaped.
Another group are people who understand where the line is, but use the fiction to tip reaction in their favor. I don’t know a parent who hasn’t contemplated this track. But when it comes to our elected leaders, our philanthropists, our mentors it’s a dangerous undertaking to use fiction and call it fact. A recent issue with “weapons of mass destruction” that didn’t materialize in the real world comes to mind painfully.
Taking fiction a step further and into the popular news media, a strange story was shared today in the link below, a “story” of distorted truth supporting a personal fiction for financial or political gain. Greg Mortenson, climber, author, philanthropist and leader of a non-profit , the Central Asia Institute (CAI), for girls’ educations is caught between conflicting stories of his own.
- Did local people ignore or welcome him and his efforts?
- Is he making things up because he feels ill?
- Is the inconsistency in stories a calculated error?
Our own personal fiction is the death of a news story, a disaster in a politician, stain in a businessman, confounder in most experiments, but part of the internal and renewable treasure of a storyteller.
So, just call it fiction, won’t you?
12 responses to “Our Own Personal Fiction-Just Don’t Call it News”
This brings to mind the matter of propaganda. In Manufacturing Consent (watch for free on hulu, quite brilliant) Noam Chomsky says: “there’s maybe eighty percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not think, and not to pay attention to anything — and they’re the ones who usually pay the costs.”
I can only hope more people choose to think for themselves.
Michael, thank you for the reference to Chomsky, one of my real inspiriations among the living. Asking questions keeps me sane, like asking “is this a true story”? Fiction posed as truth has fueled many a staged combat with real casualties.