How to Write a Story That Comes True by Lying to Yourself


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Nude Yoga & Android Servants

Nude Yoga, Android Servants, & Writing Convincing Fiction

I am writing a story about an indescribably beautiful woman who lives to improve the human condition and believes perfect relationships depend heavily on daily sex. She wants no children because she cannot be distracted from her mission to improve humanity, which drives her scolding, “You need to be cared for properly for once in your life,” and “You need to take more breaks, relax, and let the android servants do the household chores because your mind needs to be fresh for creating fiction.” I nod with a smile, acknowledging the wisdom of this mature twenty-something made filthy rich after Microsoft bought her Quit Religion Now application for hundreds of millions. Now, she and her lovely friends spend their mornings working on new projects to save the environment before expanding their minds with nude yoga in the afternoon on the island she bought in the South Pacific.

I penned this story after discovering my gift for manifesting fiction in reality merely by writing a small novelette about a bullshitter who got himself in jams all the time. The character founds on a real, self-made Legend who built several business empires on the strength of character infused from combating people by the dozen even before his work as either an intelligence operative or assassin: I’m not really sure which; it’s all hush-hush, you know. Like many writers, I fictionalized the person and altered the story to make the inspiration unrecognizable, or so I thought. Imagine the shock when the Legend called to relate an eerily similar story to my novelette. For the first time, a book actualized with such uncanny similarity to the inspiring person that fiction’s essence came into question.

Reality & What People Believe

Reality must compel escapism, evidenced by the vast fiction that haunts books, movies, and other media. For some people, like my friend the Legend, this compulsion demands the invention of a world where he takes center stage. Despite not being wealthy, instead, far from affluent, the Legend sees no challenge or perhaps finds only futility in attempts to rise financially. Despite no shortage of wars to fight throughout the world, the Legend spent life fantasizing about combat, perhaps either too cowardly or lacking the ability to fight. With libraries of fiction available and abundant challenges matching what the Legend envisions, he chooses the artificial, begging the question, “Why?”

Today, many people, often psychologists, lump liars into convenient categories such as narcissists or psychopaths. They claim any number of causes from biological to control issues, all having merit, but this taxonomy lacks a critical understanding of their fabrications and intention.

Once, the Legend related a tale of fighting twenty guys in a bar, and the police, doubting one man could defeat twenty men, handcuffed him in the belief that some other insidious scheme was at work. A waitress testified to the pugilist’s feat, saving him from arrest. Finished his tale, we hung up phones, but the next day, the Legend called again to make a story revision, “Oh, by the way, yesterday when I told you about that fight, I meant to say twelve guys, not twenty.”

Clearly, twelve instead of twenty removed any doubt I held.

Despite not believing anything the man says now, there was a time when he tricked me. When I met this person, my business suffered, and his interest in my company led to a proposal to invest. Though his lies appeared early on, they obfuscated in a naturalness and ability to recall incredible amounts of detail. The stories never changed, and to be honest, I believed he exaggerated true stories due to the authenticity he invoked. After months of talking, any uncertainty dispelled when he decided to invest over $14,000 in my struggling business. Surely, this Legend could be trusted, right?

How wrong I was.

The Legend sunk this money into the business on the condition he would use the funds for marketing, to which I agreed because $14,000 of free marketing is nothing to turn away, especially when you need more business. My suspicion began when he decided on radio ads, knowing that mass media requires a long-term, steady investment, not small amounts of money or a one-time cash infusion he planned with a week of ads. Talking a good game, he proceeded against my concerns, and nothing came of these advertisements. Undaunted, he continued pouring money into ridiculous advertising like paying people to place business cards in bars and hand out flyers, which he never checked to see if they performed. A month into this partnership, his lack of marketing knowledge and industry contacts quickly became apparent, but his willingness to spend vied for credibility, especially when he arranged the first few sales calls. Unbeknownst to me, he visited rinky-dink dive bars and restaurants, spending money to arrange meetings with owners, who I discovered afterward had no interest, evidently also taken in by this person, and only entertained me to get rid of the Legend. Seven months I wasted with this person and would have been better off with no investment because I ended up losing money.

At the end of seven months, he announced, “Well, I’m broke.” We stayed in contact in the years following our parting mainly due to the nagging need to know why he lied. In phone conversations, he told the same tall tales without variation, consistent in that reality even as he claimed a bankruptcy after having blown all his money trying to sell a business with no marketing knowledge resulting in a need for government assistance with housing. Life’s trainwreck never veered the Legend from his extant drama with new names and places, making listening and trying to dissuade him from mistakes a severe frustration that caused me to ignore many calls. Once you know the story is fiction, the movie doesn’t seem so great anymore. Still, I pushed on to understand why he lied because, for certain, a machination drove this living theater.

Considering control or manipulation as the intent, even for that brief storytelling, held reasonableness but lacked motive since he gained nothing. Without motive, the Legend must believe his ridiculous, farfetched stories credible. This idea invokes the insanity or sign of mental illness assumption, which many people justly make. Perhaps this is true, but in the case of the Legend, you must accept the man served honorably in the military for four years, worked and retired successfully from a job of thirty years, and stayed married for thirty-nine years, raising a child before his wife’s passing. If he believed his lies, this belief likely caused many indirect problems over the years: a few failed businesses, strained relationships with friends, and reluctantly supportive family. Still, he managed to navigate life for seventy years suffering no more entrepreneurial failures or family issues than people who are not bullshitters. Clearly, his lies negated the dream of affluence, given his propensity to waste money on nutty ideas, further showing a lack of malicious intent. Even my losses resulted indirectly from believing his lies, not from the intention.

An organic or socially programmed dysfunction also seems unlikely in the deliberately and authentically sculpted lies that he sometimes must edit like a manuscript. The Legend’s falsehoods instead illustrate a bizarre delusional-reinforcing behavior where people often lie with no intention but to convince themselves you believe what they say. Legends use us to affirm their carefully designed reality because, without confirmation, their fantasy hangs in the mind’s meaningless ether, but when we believe them or appear to believe them, the lies become real the way a movie has substance when discussed amongst friends. Blowing money on ill-conceived notions forms a means of proving the fantasy’s realness the way the Legend used me as his litmus test, regardless of the outcome. Oddly, this lie-affirming that allows him to live a dream holds great literary meaningfulness.

The Essence of Fiction

When the Legend called and began retelling my story based on him, a disturbing déjà vu occurred, which made me question if he somehow discovered the story and fucked with me or did I somehow indirectly manifest this reality by writing. Disturbed by the conversation, I almost pulled the novelette, worrying about being sued. Worry quickly dissipated in the Legend’s complete self-absorption, which prohibits reading anything unless written by him. The weird irony occurring as he related living my protagonist’s adventure brought a new understanding of literature.

The Legend is a living fiction. He is a living, breathing narrative freed from pages. He is Plato’s worst nightmare, having given himself entirely to making art of life, and as authors, we learn much from the Legend.

The Legend reveals a dangerous fiction writing practice in which the best narratives result from convincing yourself that others believe your lies. To convince yourself that readers believe your story, you must make them confirm that belief, which means you will do everything to give life to that story. To write the story about the Legend, I had to convince myself readers believed I was the Legend, which meant becoming the Legend. Only this total immersion in fantasy with the reader could manufacture the predictive plot that came to fruition. Of course, the inherent risk in giving yourself to a story clarifies in the many accounts about insane, eccentric writers. Perhaps that risk explains my initial disturbance and crazy magical thinking upon learning he lived my story. Believing others find credibility in your lies is madness, and you must be a little mad, or maybe a lot, to write a story so convincing it might come true.

Just Weighing Separator