“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott
Fiction writers are inveterate liars. They lie to everybody. Sometimes, they even lie to themselves. If they are good at it, people pay them for their lies. However, we are honest liars after a fashion. That’s because we tell you we are lying from the start.
Telling lies for money is neither as easy nor as lucrative as it sounds. Like a spider spinning a web, we begin with a premise that is untrue and lay strand over strand in a widening pattern in hopes someone will touch it and become entangled in it.
The spider’s web works to the greatest effect when it is undetected. This is best accomplished when the writer couches the lie in as much truth as possible. Machines have to work as machines really work. Characters must behave as people may be expected to behave in similar circumstances. History must be factual and real places accurately described or the web is seen and avoided.
The spider’s web is strong. It has to be. It must withstand wind, rain, and giants who accidentally collide with it. All of these potential dangers to the web of writers are rolled up into one entity—the editor. The editor’s most important job is to detect poor web construction. Editors root out broken timelines, inconsistencies, inexplicable actions, and meaningless objects/events and banish them. They are the unheralded, unseen guardians of master web builders.
Here spiders and writers part company. Spiders, you see, can walk upon their web without being trapped in it, writers cannot. Writers can get caught up in the fantasy of creating worlds, controlling the actions of their characters, and moving toward a largely predetermined end. Writers do not always fit in well with reality, or with human interaction. Their craft is more often a getaway car for stolen moments of success than a limo in a ticker tape parade.
Writing is an escape. However, is not meant to be an escape from life, but an expression of a life lived as fully as possible. If a writer must write what they know, then they must get out and discover life for themselves—embrace the world with all its joys and pains, not run from them.
Writers may fabricate people, creatures, and even worlds from a single strand of untruth. They cannot create emotion; they may only share it and they cannot share what they do not possess. Life experience is the silken strand from which a story is spun. It cannot be faked; if it cannot be recalled in all its heartache and triumph, it will not be strong.
Fiction writers are liars. We love to walk upon our webs and become entangled in our own imagination. Of course, writers are not the only ones who become entangled in webs of self-inflicted prevarication. It is a very human trait.
That humanity in us raises two points of interest. Writers may be real people after all and yet still be several people trying to be one person. It may also be possible that they are prophets from other worlds.