Many thanks to everyone at Black Ink, White Paper for allowing me to visit and tell you a bit about my writing process.
The heading at the top of this page says: “If you want to write life, live it.”
I would amend that slightly, dropping out a single letter: “v”. If you want to write life, lie it. Tell a lie, or two, or three.
Okay. I’m not quite the sociopath that statement makes me seem to be. I prefer to think of myself as a person with an “excess of imagination”. I am a storyteller, not an unredeemed liar.
I know all about lies. I mastered them – or at least, I mastered the consequences of telling them – in fourth grade. I remember the incident as clear as day: Caught without my homework done, I told my teacher I’d left my completed problem set back in my locker. She let me retrieve my work, and I returned to class with a blank sheet of wide-rule paper in my hand. No fool, my teacher asked for my paper so that she could grade the problems the class had already worked through. I was busted, in a major way. And then, ahem, I compounded the error by forging my parents’ signatures on the note my teacher sent home. In pencil. With three erasures because the signatures didn’t look right. I was really, truly busted.
With an experience like that, you’d think I would never have lied again.
But no. I lie every day.
I lied when I took my childhood experience of losing a best friend and turned it into a chapter of Darkbeast. I lied when I re-worked the rites of my faith, turning them into the rituals of my twelve-year-old heroine. I lied when I captured my work as a stage manager, building and striking the set of a play that will never be seen in the real world.
I lie when I tell my stories.
The best lies (as I should have realized in fourth grade…) are ones that have seeds of the truth. I really did lose a best friend. I really did study for my bat mitzvah. I really did stage manage plays.
But those seeds have to be planted. They have to be tended just so, with creative exaggeration. They have to be coaxed to germinate, to grow into the sturdy stalks of a wholly new story.
I lost my best friend because I moved away. That transition was well before the days of Skype, even before email. My friend and I exchanged paper letters for a few years, but eventually we drifted apart.
That last paragraph wasn’t very exciting, was it? You certainly have your own friends you’ve grown away from, and my story isn’t very different from your own.
But what if I take that seed of truth and water it with new, untrue details. What if I tell you I lost my best friend because of religious differences? Because she followed her faith blindly, while I bravely struck out on my own, seeking my own way of believing in the world around me? What if I tell you that we parted during a life-or-death struggle over who would find salvation and who would be damned to eternal torment?
That story isn’t quite true. But it’s a lot more interesting.
I always know when I’m lying. I’ll even admit it, if I’m called on the practice. But usually? People would rather hear the story, enjoy the made-up world. It’s almost always more interesting than the truth.
So? How about you? Have you ever twisted a truth from your own life to create your stories? If and when you do that, is your story stronger than one that is completely made up?
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
Morgan can be found online at:
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.