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Liar’s Club

“Good writing is true writing. “If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as it would truly be.”

Ernest Hemmingway

Write what you know. Every writer has heard that nugget of writing wisdom. It’s true enough. However, if every writer strictly limited themselves to what they know, and their real-world experiences, the literary world would be a boring place. My life is proof of that. If you write long enough, you will run out of what you know. You will also tire of it long before your readers do.

Experience and knowledge are only the door. The realm of imagination is the destination. Go beyond knowledge. Write what you imagine. Make your fiction sound so true the reader can’t imagine it being any other way. That doesn’t preclude using what you know. It means stretching that known quantity as far as you can without breaking it. Good fiction is truth with a twist. It begins with a falsehood plucked from the imagination and weaves into it as much truth as the author can cram into the story. The goal is to convince the reader to swallow the lie right along with all that truth, and in doing so step into the writer’s dream.

Of course, once the bait is taken and the hook set, the story must play into the reader’s imagination as well as that of the writer. Overdo the lies, stretch their imagination too far, or too fast, and they will spit it out. This is where truth “in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life” comes into play.

Conscience intrudes at this point too. The writer tempted to subjugate his/her principles and experiences to satisfy the buzz of the society around them is in danger of losing the voice they have worked so hard to develop. Truth isn’t just for the reader. You must first be true to yourself.

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