ScentOne of my notorious family members was a prolific liar. You might say pathological, but that’s so full of judgment. Barry was an experienced man who could tell a great story. His storytelling was mostly of the oral kind, but once in awhile he’d write something down.

We could never be sure where the truth stopped and the story took over when we’d talk with him. We were lucky enough to be able to disregard the facts, most of the time. “I like that story,” I’d say afterward. “It’s as true as it needs to be.” In the movie No Country for Old Men, the sheriff is asked, “Is that a true story?” He grins and looks down and says, “Well, it’s true that it’s a story, anyway.”

Aren’t liars the best storytellers? I had a period in my life where instead of saying right away “I’m a writer” I could say “I’m a professional liar.” Anybody who creates fiction for profit is a professional liar. Good liars make great stories by embellishing the facts in an entertaining way. Be entertaining is the first rule of creating stories.

Liars do have the seed of being great storytellers. You have a story to tell, something to say, and you like telling it. But there’s also the stem of structure to produce. The flower of finishing a story or a piece of writing. Finally, the fragrance: a story that makes hearts move and minds lean forward to notice.

Growing writing from that seed of fabrication to an entertaining aroma takes revision. Pruning, feeding, revising — it’s the essence of something that’s being pushed to life.

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