Bravo Sierra. B.S. The old stiersheissen. Malarkey or Blarney. Whatever you call it, it’s an art but also a gift. Most of us know someone who just seems to have a silver tongue. He can talk his way into clubs or out of traffic tickets. For some reason people believe whatever he says even when it can’t possibly be true. If his audience doesn’t seem to be buying it you may watch, amazed, as he shovels it faster and thicker until they do buy it.
Many people don’t like the bullshit artist and wish to avoid that label themselves. Someone who wants to write fiction though should get over that and embrace it, indeed cultivate it. Your story doesn’t have to bear much of a resemblance to real life. In fact it probably shouldn’t. Liberate yourself from the confining ‘truth’ of real life and you’re free to do some pretty fun stuff in your work.
Pretty obvious if you’re writing a fantasy. We recognize easily enough that Harry Potter goes to school in Britain (real life) but horcruxes, potions class, and dementors are pure invention (B.S.). What if you’re writing about a real person or real events though? I know a fella who’s working on a manuscript about a man who grew up on a ranch in Arizona in the late nineteenth century. It’s a real person who became a law man and forest ranger and this fella is writing from a diary. The problem is that the way things actually happened (real life) might not work from a standpoint of Story. This writer comes from a history background and can’t quite bring himself to rewrite dialog or fill in blanks in the action.
I believe that you have to give yourself permission to tell a Story. Story and History aren’t always the same and you have to decide which one you’re writing. Braveheart, Patton, Tombstone, Serpico, Deadwood, Glory…all based on real people and real events, but not real life. Story. It’s a paradox of storytelling that the truths they reaveal come from the inventions of fiction. So don’t be afraid to throw a little B.S. in there if you have to. It’s a gift and it would be a crime not to use it.