Monday, April 20, 2009

Lie-dar

Recently, I was enjoying a perfectly nice conversation with someone I don't know very well. It wasn't a serious conversation, just one of those getting-to-know-you, trading stories talks. And then my new friend said something and I did an internal double take. It was like the LP needle was dragged off with a scratch. In my head, a voice said, 'That's a lie."

In short, my baloney radar went wild.

She kept telling the story. It was probably funny and really, who cares if it was 100% fact? I am certainly not one to judge someone who, um, embellishes. But in my head, the voice kept saying, "Nope. Lies. Don't believe that. Not true." At the end of the story, I smiled and nodded, but the flow of conversation was interrupted and hard to get back.

Recently, I read a book a lot of people like. It was probably good and really, it's a book; who cares if it's 100% fact-like? But somewhere early on, one of the characters did something and I stopped reading and there was that LP scratching noise again. And the voice in my head said, "That's a lie."

It's all lies in fiction, I know, but I want truthiness. And a "that would never happen" realization kills a book for me. I may finish the book, but I become critical of everything I read, which keeps me in my own head and out of the characters' experiences.

These days, "careful" is one of my highest compliments for a writer. I want a writer I can trust not to seduce me in and then set off my baloney radar. I want a book where every word has been considered, where nobody has ever said, "Well, it will be fine like that." I want a book I can sink into, where even the biggest surprises make me say, "Of course" after I gasp.

And for my own part, I'm hoping for the energy and patience to make that book.

15 comments:

Tina Lee said...

I know what you mean. I am at the authentic stage in my novel(is there a stage that is not?). It feels like I am god blowing life into each sentence. It is the weighing and considering that I get so caught up in. Sometimes I can get lost in it and I can't write a word. It's a balancing act where we are working so hard on magic, that sometimes the spell (or the curse) is on me. You can never get lazy--that is all that I know!

Diane T said...

Being a big reader (and aspiring writer) of fantasy, I get exactly what you mean. I can accept flame-breathing dragons or telepathic cats or flying carpets without batting an eye. But let a character do something that feels wrong just to advance a plot point, and it'll bring me out of the story faster than a magic amulet.

Even worse than that are fantasy writers who change the rules of their magic just to resolve the plot, but that's worth a different discussion entirely.

ps: my verification word is "credru," which probably has something to do with believing fictional truthiness.

J. Thorp said...

truthiness is a great word and worthy goal, always. and Tina Lee: "god blowing life into each sentence" is the feeling, isn't it? that's as close to love as you can have for written words, in my opinion ...

Jacqui said...

Tina Lee, I love "god blowing life into each sentence." Sometimes I think I finish the story because I've blown life into these characters and I can't just leave them hanging.

Diane, changing one's own rules (or even bending them) is my number one fantasy pet peeve. And I think I'll start saying "I credru" when I want to say "I believe you."

Thorp, it's magic, isn't it, the way you can create with nothing but letters?

Elise Murphy said...

Oh . . . excellent post! It kills me when my lie-dar goes off with adults. Adults! I mean, really!

And BTW, you are writing that perfect book full of truthiness!

Jacqui said...

Thanks, Elise. I'm trying.

Ello said...

HA! I love that you call it lie-dar!

I'm infamous for trying to pull a fast one. I like to see how gullible people are, but I always tell them I'm kidding no matter how gullible they are. But yeah I know what you mean in fiction - the stage has to be set just right and authenticity is key.

Mary Witzl said...

This makes such sense to me. When you're reading a book, you know it's made up, but you want it to be credible and not strain your imagination. You don't want characters who are picked up and plopped into situations; you don't want them to react in ways that are out of character.

I love what Tina Lee says about being a god blowing life into sentences, too. Every single line has to be believable, and it all has to zing. Tall order, isn't it?

Jacqui said...

Ello, I am the queen of "embellishing." But I tell myself I am amusing people and they probably know I'm exaggerating, so it's okay. I think my problem with this person was that she was lying and it wasn't even FUNNY.

Mary, "credible" is exactly the point. Credible AND zingy. Tall order indeed.

sruble said...

Contemporary stories where the character does something that's impossible for anyone, much less that particular character make me want to throw the book across the room.

Sometimes out of character actions can be part of the character's growth. If it's done well, it can work. If it's there for no reason, then I get a bit miffed.

I shouldn't really say anything though. My stories are completely implausible - on purpose. Besides, lying (for the purpose of embellishing a story) is so much fun. Sometimes I wish I could write that really great story where things makes sense and have reason and purpose and everything. ;)

BTW, the word truthiness made me laugh because of Stephen Clobert. He believes in truthiness, even if he sometimes (most of the time) embellishes the truth with his own opinion.

Jacqui said...

sruble, the truth = I stole truthiness from Colbert. And it's not that I can't enjoy a good fantasy; I just want everything to seem credible within the context of the world the author has created.

sruble said...

Yeah, I totally get that. It should work within the world they've made up.

Amber Lough said...

"I stole truthiness from Colbert" is something I'm going to try to slide into normal conversation over the next 24 hours. Seriously.

Jacqui said...

Amber, :)

Colorado Writer said...

Very interesting. Shifty-eyed liars...