TED Conversations

Cedric Mayen

Script writer, Editions Delcourt

This conversation is closed.

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.

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Sep 7 2013: You are French AND write in English ... what more can we wish for? And because of this rare combination, any bad English will be forgiven right away ... ;o)

    Your questions made me smile at first but then to think deeper into this matter.

    The main difference between a lie and a fictional story is its general intention about the effect it has to the one it is presented to.

    The intention of a lie is to disable the judgment of another person by withdrawing, distorting or limiting their knowledge about something.

    The intention of storytelling is to entertain another person by not pretending to be true.

    The tools and therefore the origin of both are identical, which are creativity, a good memory and authenticity.

    Yet as a plow is made of the same steel than a sword, their final purpose separates them distinctively from their same origin.

    A talented storyteller may have the potential to be a good liar as well, as he or she possesses the skills, yet those will be channeled by their personal moral code if and how they are used or misused by them. The fact, that not many politicians become famous novelists after their active career, may proof my theory here ... :o)

    Propaganda could be seen as a hybrid of both worlds, as it is weaving lies with truth to form a believable story. Its intention still is to disable the judgment of a person or a group of people, and to cover its trails by the fragments of truth.

    Thank you for this interesting question!!
    • thumb
      Sep 9 2013: Thank you Lejan for excusing my level in english.
      I'm ok with you about your first point, the main difference being the general intention, and that they use the same tools, but I disagree with the propaganda point.
      Propaganda don't tell stories, it carves ideas in the public brains. I think more than propaganda, you were thinking of the glorification of leaders (like Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler did.... and that's it, we have reached the Goldwin point!) creating a myth out of someone.
      By the way, I'm currently reading an excellent book "La part de l'autre" from E-E Schmitt (I don't think it has been translated in english yet, according to Wikipedia), an Uchronia based on "what if Adolf Hitler was accepted in the Vienna artschool and became a real painter?". The story alternates between Hitler the dictator to be and Adolf talented surrealist painter, friend with Dali and Breton.
      I think this book is very interesting and fit in this thread because half of the book is written by a storyteller, someone who went deeply researching and trying to understand Hitler's life and thoughts, his mechanics on becoming the worst man that ever lived, and the other half written by a liar who completely invent Adolf, someone we want to care about because we believe that he's a good person.
      • thumb
        Sep 9 2013: Cedric, I have to thank you too, for excusing the level of my English, yet so far it seems, we both are doing quite well in understanding each other ... ;o)

        When I mentioned propaganda to be part in between both 'worlds' I had in mind, that in todays more or less 'enlightened' societies, especially within democratic ones, it takes more for propaganda to not been 'felt' as such, as it used to be a view decades ago.

        When I listen or read today some of the Nazi propaganda of the Third Reich, it 'feels' strange how my countryman could honestly take this seriously. And right at that point, theres the catch! Because how do I know if what is presented to me today and which I may see to be 'true' won't make people in the future think the same about me?

        And as technology advanced since those days, and society in many aspects, so have the tools of manipulation. This is where I think the 'art of storytelling' became more important in propaganda as it was before, as if you take a look in our modern 'blinking and colorful' mass media, almost anything has become a nicely wrapped story for the purpose to be easily consumed.

        How many explaining monologues or controversy discussions are left on TV or in newspapers? It appears to me, that most of it transformed into some form of 'show' with special focus on its entertaining factor. By this, propaganda would unveil itself, if it wouldn't also come in those format. Not exclusively, as multitude is key here, but as increasing as all the rest of our current 'information habits'.

        The 'glorification' you talk about wasn't on my mind at all, but as a matter of fact, I have a natural aversion against it.

        The book you mentioned sounds interesting by its concept, even though I wouldn't read it, as I don't see what other light could and should be added to Adolf Hitler than those he shone on himself and my nation at that time. I couldn't be entertained by this story, because I wish to be only informed on that subject, not entertained.
        • thumb
          Sep 10 2013: I didn't know that you were german, maybe my argument wasn't the best though.... Sorry.
          Do you know Edward Bernays, the inventor of Public Relation? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays) He was the first one to understand that Advertising was Propaganda in time of peace. His first attempt to succesfully prove it was when he was contacted in the early XXth century by the big tobacco companies to expand smoking habits to women.At that time women smoking were seen badly and the companies couldn't expand their market. He decided to call New York journalists telling them that in a certain day and place something big would happen, women would lit "a torch of liberty" . he then asked suffragettes to gather and light cigarettes in front of the journalists.
          The photos they took on that day were seen all over the world, and subsequently women started smoking as a way of rebellion in those times of social change and affirmation of feminism.
          This is pictured in a really interesting BBC documentary called "the century of the self" that I invite you to watch: http://vimeo.com/61857758
      • thumb
        Sep 10 2013: No problem at all, Cedric, as it isn't on you to be sensitive about the history of my nation from an inside perspective and to learn about a single aspect of yours certainly widens my horizon from the 'outside'.

        Actually I am very interested in those 'what if' questions as they usually open varieties of options future-wise. Yet unfortunately only in this direction ...

        I know Edward Bernays even though I would not have recalled his name out of context, yet I was aware that the Freud clan was related to PR in certain aspects. To me another example that its the intention what defines the danger of knowledge...

        Thank you for the documentary, which, as it seems to go on forever, I will watch it through another time.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.