lies, lies, lies

On WritingI have a confession to make. Last week, I ended my “on writing” post with a jab at the idea of hiking. I implied that I have no idea why anyone would think it’s fun.

Here’s the confession: that’s a complete lie. I actually enjoy hiking.

Sometimes, writing is all about being able to lie in an entertaining way. (You don’t have to say it. I know my ‘joke’ wasn’t all that funny. Stop distracting me.)

The humor (or lack thereof) of my closing quip isn’t the point. The point is that the very same things that make a person a good liar also make a person a good writer. Our job is to make shit up. We tell stories that never happened, at least not as far as we know. We invent people and cities and conflict. Some of us go so far as to make up new languages and alternate versions of history. What’s more, we get quite invested in our elaborate fibs.

Try telling a writer her characters aren’t “real”. Have fun at the ER.

But in that process, somehow the lies become something more. All stories start as nothing but an idea. They are fantasies, sometimes of the delusional variety. Lies, if you want to be crude about it. And yet, our goal as writers is to take those lies, those stories we’re pulling out of our asses delicately constructing to convey complex messages, and breathe life into them.

In a way, that’s the process of creation at its most basic, profound level. To make something out of nothing. To pull The Stranger out of thin air. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

Look, I’m no advocate of dishonesty. Anyone who knows me well can tell you the one thing most likely to prompt me to go off on you is a lie. I hate that. But, in order to write well I have to tap into a part of my brain that I normally suppress. The part that wants to lie, not for profit or to avoid consequence, but just to see if I can get away with it. The part of me that makes up wild stories about things I’ve never actually done. The part of me that laughs manically in darkened corners just to freak people out.

Is this making any sense?

Maybe I’ve pushed the metaphor too far. I think you get where I’m coming from, at least those of you who are writers. I hope so, anyway. I had a point when this started, but now I’m struggling to remember it.

Oh yeah.

Good fiction is a lot like a well constructed lie. It should be, anyway. The best writers are masters of deception. Not because they (maybe one day, we) want to abuse trust or indulge in trickery, but because the act of creation requires it.

Ironically, good fiction also contains a great deal of truth, all mixed in with the lies. They blend together, this oil and water that really shouldn’t fuse, joining to form something wonderful and special. That’s part of why I love it. It’s a contradiction of the highest, noblest order.

Noblest? Most noble?

Who cares? I’ve blathered on philosophically for long enough. Go enjoy your Tuesday. Write something. Make shit up. Tell some lies and sprinkle ’em with truth.



About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

6 Responses to lies, lies, lies

  1. diannegray says:

    I remember watching a guy who was interviewed on TV after winning a major Australian writing award. The interviewer asked him about his family, apparently all they could say about him was that “he was a liar”! I thought that was pretty tough and felt really sorry for the guy. Having said that, this is one time lying paid off for him 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always liked the phrase that writing is ‘fictionalized truth.’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “The best writers are masters of deception.”

    Not sure I’m ready for anyone to know this yet. Shh! Ha ha. Yes, it’s twistedly true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dex says:

      Eh, we’re illusionists at heart. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but like any good magic show, when the audience is drawn in they don’t care, and that’s when the ‘fake’ magic turns into something very real.


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