Reading Between the Lies – Is Lying in Non-Fiction Pieces Okay?

By Beth Winze

As a writer, I hold a powerful tool of persuasion and connection in a written form. That is not me creating a power trip for myself, it is just the God honest truth. This also means that I need to be one hundred percent careful with what I write and how I present it to my reader. Being a writer forces me to come in deep and constant contact with my emotions. I tackle them daily and I play them out in written forms. Any sort of memoir or story I tell in the form of non-fiction is my way of contractually setting an honest standard with the reader that I will be open, raw and transparent in ways I can only be on paper.   Since I am English major, this topic has come up in discourse more then once. Is it okay for an author to extend the truth or just plain lie to the reader? I have wrestled with this idea for a few days now because being a creative person almost requires us to embellish things, but morally, I feel conflicted with lying. And here is what I have finally decided:

  1. The writer I aspire to be is not a liar. Everything I put to paper will be the complete truth to my reader. I do not have the right to evoke certain emotions from my reader that I have not gone through myself.
  1. Morally I hold myself to a much higher standard then that of lying. I like to think of my work as a raw form of art, one not tainted by the world or my more deceptive side.
  1. I hold the connection my words and my reader have highly. My reader deserves to know the real me. If I can’t truly share how I feel and what I have gone through, then I have no right to cause a reader to go through what I create.

In the article “Ignorance, Lies, Imagination and Subversion in the Writing of Memoir and the Personal Essay” by Lee Martin, he addresses this strong idea of when it is and is not okay to lie in non-fiction pieces. He makes one particular statement that blows me out of the water: “Right away, I admit that I’ve told a lie, a transparent one at that…The lie I tell in this essay allows me to reveal those feelings in a way I might not have been able to had I first stated them directly.” My final point I wish to bring to light, that as a writer, you must first deal with the emotional repercussions of an event before you publicly invite a reader into that experience. In wrestling with your own emotions you create a solidified strength that only leads to a powerful piece. But when not properly dealt with, it is much easier to lie or retreat into denial then “face the music”. If the writer never “faces the music” we can never expect the reader to fully sing along.

I, as a writer, hold a place of persuasion and deep connections with my reader. I wish to only create an unspoken trust that when the reader turns to my writing, they can be completely real with themselves. I will never have a puckered page from tears if they weren’t evoked from a real situation. And that is just the kind of writer I will always be.



One Reply to “Reading Between the Lies – Is Lying in Non-Fiction Pieces Okay?”

  1. Believers’ hearts are shaped and molded by their experiences, by what God allows them to go through. By searching your heart explicitly for the truth, the real truth, and using only that only in your work, you provide the example to others in the secular world and shine the light of Christ into the darkness that they are unaware they are in. His light will shine all the more brightly the truer your work is.


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