Post: Honesty is the Best Policy

25 Jun

We writers are in a bit of a bind when it comes to expectations. We are expected to entertain, but society often demands us to inform. I personally think it’s funny that we have to be the mirror of the world and reflect the faults through an ultimately empty image, but that’s a post for another time. What I’m currently musing about, is the fact that we are told to entertain at all costs, but we are damned if we don’t properly inform.

I don’t think it’s a conscious stigma or burden placed upon us. I feel it’s just human nature. People want to lose themselves in a different reality- but not one so different that they feel truly alien. It’s exactly why 99% of extraterrestrials in books and movies have a spoken language and desires for expansion (in either knowledge or territory). Hell, it’s why they even look like us. Most of the time, they’re bipedal humanoids with only a few differences in proportion. Why can’t we just tell a science fiction story as it is in reality? The story would at least fill our quota for information. Well, because we all know that it’d be incredibly boring. What would we call it? “The Story of the Microbe that May (Perhaps) -Probably- Existed Beneath the Rust?” Even the title makes me want to fall asleep!

So what gives? Why is it that we’re demanded to tell the truth but society has such fickle demands when it comes to entertainment? I think this is something that a lot of writers overlook in the pursuit of good stories. See, if life were a rally, it would sound a lot like a grassroots political event. You’d have a bunch of people yelling “we want the truth!” and a heck of a lot more merely listening to the speeches and being entertained by their notions. Now imagine that this is a Tea-Party rally and just across the park is an Occupy demonstration. If they both manage to go for more than five minutes without starting a riot, I’d be questioning reality- but let’s pretend for this hypothetical scenario that they can co-exist. On opposite extremes, and on opposite sides of the park, they’re preaching two truths. Now, common sense says that only one of them can be right. But, at least in this case, common sense is wrong.

Many writers begin their careers under the false pretense that there is only one truth. Usually, it is the one that they happen to prescribe to, but that’s not egregious or wrong. That’s merely human nature. The fault comes when one is unable to accept the existence of other truths.

There is no such thing as the truth. There are merely perspective. Writers aren’t tasked with telling a facet to a single universal truth, we are tasked with telling a truth. We’re not particle physicists; imagine if you had to connect every single fictional work through some sort of unified literary theory. It’s not just improbable, it’s impossible. These books represent entire universes and realities endemically separate from each other. Sure, you can find patterns (I’m a huge proponent of “inter-textuality”) but aside from the occasional similarity, you can’t unify all works. So how else could you possibly tell the “truth” and simultaneously “entertain” unless they are both part of the same process?

The process, of course, being lying.

You have to, have to, need to lie. As a writer, there is no other way. Everything from fiction to articles, you have to put forward a reality that inherently fails to account for the totality of everything around you. Whether you realize it or not, by not creating a comprehensive encyclopedia filled with every possible paradigm, you are lying. You are omitting, you are being (in a sense) deceitful. Now, is this execrable? Of course not! This is the very foundation of writing! Stories, lies, and fantasies! These lies tell the story of a truth, just not THE truth- only when they disregard reality entirely do they become empty lies.

We as writers are tasked with seemingly conflicting mandates. Entertain the masses, yet tell them the truth. It is ironically through lies which we can fulfill this contract with the world. It just goes to show how seemingly paradoxical and wonderous writing can be. Honesty is the best policy, but deceit is the best means of implementation.

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One Response to “Post: Honesty is the Best Policy”

  1. Fletcher Krase July 17, 2012 at 5:21 am #

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