Writers are well known for making things up. Neil Gaiman is known to over two million Twitter followers as someone who
will eventually grow up and get a real job. Until then, will keep making things up and writing them down.
Speaking for myself, as a writer I keep making things up and writing them down, which, if drawn as two intersecting circles, puts me on a .0001mm intersection with Neil Gaiman; normally I am a small rock (not drawn to scale), a two-millionth particle of a rock around his Twitter account, but on this occasion there is an intersection.
As a child I was a liar on three occasions (that I can remember). I told my sister that if I rubbed a ring on my finger, a monster would appear. I remembered this as an early foray into making things up until my sister told me a couple of years ago that she believed it at the time and was still remembering it a matter of decades later. The other was a matter of a skipping rope and the third will never reach the light of day.
Despite this, I believe writers aren’t the worst liars, in fact we are hopelessly honest to the point of self-impalement on our own honesty, a contradiction that is occupying me in my writing at the moment.
It makes sense that if writers are taking the stuff of raw reality and producing a recognisable version which is made up, writers can recognise the difference between the two. A mechanic can hear the sound of a problem in a running engine, a teacher can detect the point a class is about to go lord-0f-the-flies, a Jedi detects fluctuations in the Force, so the writer knows the difference between making things up and lying. Regardless of our rep as individuals, we simply cannot afford to leave the writer’s equivalent of a loose bearing, behaving badly or the early intimations of the destruction of Alderan in our writing. A book is a particular version of the truth, as Neil Gaiman wrote, and a reader found important enough to tattoo onto her body:
I can believe things that are true/and I can believe things that aren’t true/and I can believe/things where nobody knows/if they’re true or not.
However, it has to be truthful to itself.
Which brings me to my problem. When I started writing for publication, I worked with a powerfully charismatic and commercially successful creative, let’s call him Mike. The effect was like going down to the end of my cul-de-sac (for real, I lived in a cul-de-sac) and a long-loader, lit up like a fairground in the twilight, drew up with a hiss of hydraulics. I got aboard thinking I’d probably have to walk home at some point, which is what happened, but for a while I travelled the route taken by a big, commercial creative. It didn’t stop anywhere unless there were connections to merchandising centres, or the potential to set up your own.
Now gaming is part of my urban fantasy, Skinny Inkers, but the deeper I got under the skin of the story and the characters, the more truthful I’ve had to be about gaming. Gaming is geek culture, which I love, but it has its dark side and two of the characters needed the dark side – gamergate, addiction – to work. This must happen to every writer, whether we sign up to it or not.
… and so the merchandising opportunities disappear into the distance, tail-lights flashing as the long-loader goes over bumps in the road.