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.

  • Sep 10 2013: Lying and fictional storytelling are two different acts that take advantage of the same type of thinking. When a person lies they must remember that lie, and the next, and so on. They must also remember how that lie relates to everything else that is said for the remainder of their interaction with who they lied to. The same type of thinking must be employed by an author of fiction who states a fictionall truth, which adds up to the same thing as a lie. They must remember this fictional truth and build on it, interact with it, try to fight it, but he has to remember that it exists and should make its nature clear by the end of his narrative.
    This is extremely difficult and exhausting, thus not many people do it well. It is however, like so many other things, something that a person gets better at the more that they practice. It is conceivable that a person who was a con-man turned legitimate could turn to fiction as it employs the talents that he took so long to master. He can still express himself at what he see's as his highest calling and form of expression by taking those talents and aplying them to fictional storytelling.
    The difference between lying and storytelling, however, is very important; one of these is meant to help or entertain, the other is meant to harm or manipulate. The difference comes from the perspective of the person who hears the statement. If the statement is intended to be taken as truth and is not, it is a lie. This usually occurs either to keep someone in the dark, or to manipulate them into seeing a situation from a designed perspective. If the statement is made clear to be a fictional story, not meant to be taken as fact but merely beneficial in an entertaining or philosophical capacity, it is not harmful at all. Its a cliche good vs. evil scenario.
    • thumb
      Sep 12 2013: Thank you for sharing your thoughts, they are really close to what I think on this matter. Lies and fiction works with the same type of thinking, although it's the intent that change. Now I'm trying to understand the difference of intent, because as I was telling Lejan before, I don't think that storytellers always share good intents and liers bad intent as Yoka said earlier talking about white lies, maybe you can help us figure it out.
      • thumb
        Sep 12 2013: Cedric,
        I agree with you that a storyteller and one who tells a lie may both have good intent....or both have bad intent.

        Chris has made a good point..... perhaps the difference comes from the perspectives of BOTH the person delivering the information AND the person receiving the information?

        If a storyteller is clear about his/her intent, and the listener chooses to accept the story as truth, that is not the responsibility of the storyteller. If a person tells a story with the intent to deceive, then the outcome IS the responsibility of the person telling the story/lie?

        In Yoka's example, the story was told with the intent to help a person through a traumatic process. Apparently, those involved in the delivery and acceptance of the information all felt it to be a loving gesture, which fulfilled the intent, desire and expectations of all those involved.
      • Sep 13 2013: Cedric, it seems that we can both agree that the intent is important to understand whether or not one is good or bad, but there is more to it. A storyteller whose intention in telling a story is to teach a lesson can become dangerous as it can be a powerfull tool for manipulation. A lie will either be accepted or denied, and most of us can recognize a terrible lie when we hear one. A story however, can cloud the way that we see the deeper issues being adressed. A story that makes you sympathize with a truly evil person could potentially cloud your judgement on the issues themselves, ex: "Maybe he was right to want revenge, I certainly would if I were in his situation." This is a more effective method of manipulation than lying. If a storyteller is not telling the entire story, or has a goal for the listener other than simply entertaining or teaching factual, empiricle information, it has to be disclosed as such. Otherwise it is a manipulation and this puts it on the same playing field as a lie.
        Another issue adressed was that perhaps a lie can be good, or helpful. While 'white lies' can come from an intention to benefit who is being told, it is an extremely risky and often unfare assumption of control by the person telling the supposedly harmless lie. If you are giving incorrect information to a person that trusts you, even if under the pretense of helping them, you are assuming control over their system of beliefs, of their understanding, of their mind. It is not a risk that should be taken lightly and is most often despised by the person that may eventually realize that they were lied to. We all must deal with difficult truths, but just because those people we trust deny those hard truths does not mean that our ability to face them will be improved.
        I would conclude that there are obvious examples of how a storyteller can be a bad influence, but considerably less evidence that suggests irrefutably that lying can be good. I believe in the truth personally.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.