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January 20, 2010

Lauren Kate: Learning to Lie

Posted by webmaster
Today's guest blogger is Lauren Kate, author of THE BETRAYAL OF NATALIE HARGROVE and the newly released FALLEN. Below, she explains why "lying" isn't necessarily such a bad thing, especially for readers and writers of fiction.

And if you haven't already, check out Lauren's Author Q&A and FALLEN book trailer we posted earlier, here.

Have you ever played the game Truth, Truth, Lie? The rules, er…rule is simple: working around the room, each person tells (in any order) two true statements about him or herself along with one lie. The object is to guess is to guess the lie --- which gets harder and more fun when you play with some skilled fabricators.

Because the truths have to measure up to the lies in terms of how interesting or bizarre they are, people usually offer some pretty juicy details. The kinds of things that never come up in small talk. I once dated a girl with the same name as my ex so I wouldn’t have to get my tattoo removed. That kind of thing.

I love the game because it never fails to get a group of strangers loosened up and laughing. Plus…it actually encourages making up a big fat lie, then playing it off as if it were a fact! And who gets away with that past the elementary school playground?

Well…writers do.

When I teach creative writing workshops, I like to play Truth, Truth, Lie on the first day of class. Some of you might not think encouraging your students to lie is the brightest idea. That I’m just setting myself up for a semester full of my-dog-ate-my-homework-on-the-same-day-as-my-grandmother’s-funeral kind of stuff. But that seems a small price to pay to convey the idea that great fiction relies on a steady combination of truth and lie. The lie is there to catch our fancy, and set a story aloft; the truth tethers it back to reality and makes it accessible to readers.

And all the lying writers do? It’s contagious.

When writers lie, what they’re really doing is giving their imagination free reign. Think of Yann Martel writing those incredibly affecting tiger-in-the-rowboat scenes in LIFE OF PI. A masterpiece of a lie.

When characters lie, they get termed “unreliable narrators” and we love them all the more for it. Think of Holden Caulfield, maybe the most famous liar in American fiction, who grows more charming with every fib he tells in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE.

Readers: before you get all self-righteous, understand that you lie, too. A really good book will practically force you to. You lie to suspend your disbelief, to make the impossible possible, to comprehend how in the world a starving tiger in a rowboat wouldn’t eat that character you’ve come to care about so deeply.

As a reader, caught up in a great story’s web of lies is one of my favorite places to be. As a writer, lying lets me live out any far-fetched narrative I can come up with --- as long as I can balance it out with enough truth that you’ll suspend your disbelief when you pick up my book.
I’ll leave you with a turn at Truth, Truth, Lie and challenge you to try and separate fact from fiction:

1. I have worked as a door-to-door discount carwash sales person.
2. When I was fourteen, I went to the junior Olympics for giant slalom snow skiing.
3. My husband totaled our car thirty minutes before our wedding.

-- Lauren Kate

Please check out
The Book Butterfly for the next stop on Lauren's blog tour.