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We Want to Believe (or How to Lie Better)

A guy gets on stage and does a trick. Aztec Lady, Bullet Catch, Zig Zag Girl. It's a con. A dodge. The gun is made to fire blanks. The boxes are bigger than they seem. It's the person watching, their readiness to believe, that fills the deception with wonder and makes it magic. So, too, with writing. Fiction is a lie, by definition. And writers are liars. Shame on them. It's the reader's regard, their eagerness to give credence, that makes a story emotionally compelling and elevates it to art. A good lie rings true. And reveals truth. In the nineties, a poster hung above the desk of FBI agent Fox Mulder (and on the bedroom wall of every self-respecting X-phile): I Want to Believe. And it's true. We want to believe. In fact, we first believe, then, if the writing falls short (and if often does), we make a conscious effort to disbelieve. Whether you're writing about ordinary occurrences or an epic mytharc to rival X-files, the appearance of truth, that is to say, verisimilitude, is essential. We'll talk about concrete particulars and sensory details. About writing what we know (which simply means: if you don't know it, learn it). How an inside eye creates trust, what Coleridge might call "poetic faith." Good writers are farmers and mechanics and doctors and hunters. If we believe in the gun being cleaned, the Q-tip and the rifle grease, we're likely to believe in the werewolf at the door. We'll talk about putting the familiar (or natural) against the unfamiliar (or supernatural). The tangy smell of seaweed dying, for instance, alongside the metallic sheen of a mermaid. About credibility when accuracy is impossible (and it often is). What does battery acid taste like? Flat Sprite with a penny in it? Maybe. What does it feel like to have wings? To spontaneously combust? To turn invisible? Let's find out!

Facilitators: Alex Dawson
Track: Writing Fiction
Location: TBD
Saturday, June 6, 2020 - 10:10am to 11:40am