“Oh the tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott
You might have seen one of those social media posts where you’re asked to tell what you do for a living in an obscure/funny way. I usually answer that I tell lies for a living. Of course, then I have to explain that I’m not a politician, but a fiction writer.
I’ve been reading The Republic by Plato and stumbled upon this conversation between Socrates and Adeimantus that spoke to me about writing.
Socrates: “You are aware, I suppose, that all mythology and poetry is a narration of events, either past, present, or to come?”
“Certainly,” he replied.
Socrates: “And narration may be either simple narration or imitation, or a union of the two?
“You know the first lines of the Iliad…‘And he prayed all the Greeks, but especially the two sons of Atreus, the chiefs of the people…’
“The poet is speaking in his own person; he never leads us to suppose that he is anyone else. But in what follows he takes the person of Chryses, and then does all that he can to make us believe that the speaker is not Homer, but the aged priest himself.”
To tell a tale well, a writer must take on another personality, or in most cases, multiple personalities. It’s much like an actor getting into character---except in my case, it’s a one-man show and I have to change costumes really fast.
Writing dialog is like talking to myself as two different people with different points of view and all the while watching hidden on the sidelines to make sure I keep the conversation moving and make sure none of my personalities spoil the ending.
The difference between telling and showing is to remain invisible, to be the all-powerful wizard hidden behind the curtain pulling the strings. If you see me, if I don’t stay behind the curtain, the show’s over—the deception, and so the story fails.
Make no mistake about it, deception is what fiction writing is about. It’s kind of in the name of the thing. The object is to spin a web so tangled the reader gets lost between realities and just as wrapped up in it as I did while I was writing it.
Once when asked why I wrote three blogs instead of one, I said the answer was simple. Those are the three personalities that can’t keep their mouths shut. It’s okay if people just don’t get why I write or where I go while doing it. They may be just one person. If you find that boring too, you might be a writer.