It is a given that fiction is not fact. It is, in fact, not true. It is a lie, and I, as a fiction writer am a liar. People pay me for what I write and I am, therefore, a professional liar.
There, I've admitted it.
Once the fiction writer does that he can start to enjoy it. He can stand at a bar and when asked by someone, "So, what do you do for a living?" he can reply with pride, "I tell lies."
There should be no shame in this, it is an honorable profession. Many fine men have been liars. Take Shakespeare, lauded today, but a terrible liar. That A Midsummer's Night he wrote, lies. Not a word of truth in it. And they gave Arthur Conan Doyle a knighthood for telling lies about some character called Sherlock Holmes. Some people have no shame.
I may not be in the same league as these dishonorable gentlemen, but I have tried my best to lie for my Queen and country. Yes, my screenplay, Disciple, about a Scots lad converting to Sikhism had not a whiff of truth in it; and stage play Siege Mentality was nothing but a tissue of lies. Come on, two Asian kids hold hostage the committee of the Commission for Ethnic Harmony but don't know what they want in order to release them? Did anybody really fall for that one?
I make no apologies, for my lies are blatant, to be believed only by the terminally naïve, and this blatancy is hard to achieve.
Take the efforts Ian Fleming put into ensuring that James Bond was not to be believed as a secret agent. How much more obvious can you be than to introduce yourself as, "Bond, James Bond."
Come on, Jimmy, if you'd announced yourself as Millicent Flanagan it might have thrown the bad guys off the scent for a while. But a stroke of genius from Fleming.
Let us celebrate the great liars for the pleasure they have given us. When has a computer manual elicited such joy as an utter fib? When has a recipe book been turned into a major motion picture?
It is encouraging that so many great liars have existed for we are discouraged from the practice as children. This denies future generations of many great lies. Some poor child, stigmatized by her teacher to tell the truth, will go on to become a botanist, thus denying us her wonderful tales of a boy wizard.
But the liar must declare himself; there is no honor in being a secret liar or as they are commonly known, a politician. If politicians had any sound beliefs in the lies they peddle they would work harder on character, plot and dialogue. I regard them as mere amateurs, who give we masters of falsehood a bad name.
These are the most truthful words I've written for a long time and, surprisingly, they give me a certain guilty pleasure.