Telling a lie is different from withholding the truth. Sometimes, the latter is worse. Occasionally, lying is acceptable. For example, if you’re throwing a surprise birthday party, and the soon-to-be celebrant inquires of such events, it is best to keep the cat in the bag. In other instances, it may be acceptable if it’s the lesser of the two evils, e.g., if an individual confronts an ex-significant other with certain questions, the interrogated party may choose to respond with the less painful answer, albeit dishonest.
If acting is “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances” (Meisner) then how does writing match up? Granted, non-fiction writing is just that, non-fiction. Factual. Real. Actual events told from whatever the perspective. Fiction? According to Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, “fiction” is defined as “something invented by the imagination…” In that case, any event that is not experienced firsthand is fiction to some degree.
This could really go on for hours…
In any case, any story told could be considered fiction or non-fiction.
Come, gather, hear me out before you walk away unimpressed.
If I told you a story about a little boy who had daydreams of being a hero for a girl he had a crush on in grade school, would you consider that fact or fiction? Depending on the context, and the way the story was told, it’s debatable.
In the fourth grade there was a girl named Amanda. I had a huge crush on her, and for whatever reason, I envisioned catastrophic events descending upon our classroom, bad guys breaching the walls, guns a blazin’, and my tiny little (maybe) 60 pound frame darting across the room to take a bullet for her. In my wounded state, she would cradle me in her arms, screaming bloody murder, but still gentle in her gaze when she looked upon me in my last moments, confessing to me that her long-hidden love for me would never die…
Fact or fiction?
I guess it’s up to me to tell you either way, or neither, allowing you, the reader, to decide for yourself based on my credibility and/or storytelling prowess.
If Meisner’s definition of acting is “the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances,” then my definition of writing is “the ability to truthfully tell a story under circumstances determined by the author.”
Whether I’m recounting actual events or “creating” a plotline utilizing “imaginary” characters, my telling of the story is truthful—I’m actually telling it. How am I telling it? Through whatever structure I (may or may not) determine ahead of time, based on how the story will be conveyed—live to an audience whose reaction I can regard, or recorded/written as a blog such as this.
I intend on writing a book of some sorts before I die. Perhaps it will simply be a collection of stories, or maybe it will actually be one continuous story about my life. Those I have spoken to about this possess mixed opinions about certain things, i.e., the usage of real names, but in the grand scheme of things, aside from those that know me within the first degree and know the (TBD) stories, the majority of (hopeful) readers won’t know anything about me, where I’m from, who I knew, or if these stories are…wait for it…real, or (for the sake of the argument) non-fiction.
Everything anyone can say can be absolutely real, but is it true? That’s a different story (pun intended). I might not always tell true stories, but I can vow that each and every one of them will be real. I’m really writing them, and I’m really sharing them. In the case that I’m sharing someone else’s words, I’ll be sure to properly credit the, because although I may sometimes lie, I’m far from a fraud.
One more story...
In the winter of 2001 I started a journey in a place I had never been My eyes had been opened, my mind was blown, and my heart was never the same. I occasionally thank the girl that changed my life, and sometimes I blame her for my timeline in becoming a man, but that doesn’t change the fact that I will always attribute a large part of this process to her. Recently, I talked to this woman (because she did grow up) and she congratulated me on my developments, unfortunately, I could not wish her the same.
Sometimes I still daydream of being a hero for her: taking a bullet, pushing her out of the way of a speeding motorcade, or stopping her from impending doom. Occasionally, I am stopped in my tracks by a glance from someone that thanks me for what I have done. These gazes do not belong to her, nor will they ever. She will not thank me for saving her life, nor will I be able to save hers. Whichever the case may be, I will always strive to be a hero in her eyes.
Or is it?