TED Conversations

Cedric Mayen

Script writer, Editions Delcourt

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Do you have to be a good liar to be a good storyteller?

What is the main difference between a lie and a fictional story? aren't they quite the same thing? Are novel writers basically mass-liars? What are the basics of lying that you can also find in story-telling?
I'm writing a novel based on a character who lies to everyone about his life, a con-artist who decides after a shock to stop lying and starts to write a fictional book because he desperately needs to lie to feel alive, but he's stuck with writer-block syndrom.
If you can help me answering these questions it will help me a lot.
BTW I'm french so, I'm sorry if sometimes my english is bad.


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    Sep 7 2013: Thank you for this question! In my school, we just read and reviewed "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. This book discusses this question mainly in the chapter "How to Tell a True War Story" (I think that's the right chapter I don't have my book with my right now). My interpretation of his views have definitely impacted my views on truth and fiction.

    He states that fictional truth is sometimes more true than actual truth. Fictional truth can sometimes evoke emotions and general ideas much better than actual truth. In fiction (from what I can tell), authors try to pull the reader in and let them feel all the emotions characters are feeling. Also, it seems that the plot, setting, characters, and most other aspects of the story are intended to give readers new perspectives on issues and give readers new ideas, like O'Brien's book gave me a fresh perspective on fictional truth vs. actual truth. I feel a simple statement of facts that are "known" to be true will not always give the reader the emotion behind certain events and won't necessarily lead them to overall ideas of the event/s.

    Regarding the relation between a good liar and a good storyteller, I think there is little or no relation. A good storyteller tries to hook you into a story and knows how to express emotions and ideas well. A good liars strengths are mainly quickness (in the sense that he can think of lies quickly w/o hesitation) and distorting his emotions to use against the listener of the lie/s. Also, I imagine a liar would lack fundamental storytelling techniques that would not be difficult to spot.

    Hopefully that helps with your book (Good luck with it!) and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
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      Sep 9 2013: Seems like a very interesting book, I'll look if I can find it in french.
      On the basis of your last paragraph, what do you think of con-artists or people that can live for more than ten years two separate lives, with different wives and children in two places.
      In the case of con artists, I don't think their main strenghts are quickness and distorting emotions, because they have to set up a story, create a complete background, analyse the targets, the way they act and feel before they actually attack. They have to prevent all possibilities... The same thing that a storyteller does when he thinks about a new story to write isn't it?

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