Mar
16
2008

Writing with Creative License

Categories: Faking It, Writing

“Did that really happen?” people often ask me. “Is all of that true?”

Then I look them in the eye and say, “No, it’s not.”

Yes, I admit it. I, Mike Lee, am a liar.

Many of these entries are not 100% true. It’s impossible for them to be, especially if I’m trying to recall an entire conversation that happened years ago. Some conversations are amalgamations of two or more actual discussions; if they complement each other, I combine them.

Other conversations are entirely fabricated from my noodle. Mr. Lee’s Workshop. The Cranium of Insanium. My Psychology of Writology. Um, you know what I mean.

Occasionally, I’ll create a work of fiction. That may be obvious, especially with entries like “Gemini’s Horoscope” or “The Hulk”. They’re a change of pace, a way to brain stretches and cerebellum yoga.

More often than not, I’ll write slice-of-life stories. These are snippets of experiences as viewed through my Storyteller Lens. When I look through this lens, life becomes a series of stories. Each is self-contained and packaged in a little box. Sometimes with a bow, sometimes with a scar.

This means I write with careful yet generous creative license. I’ll deemphasize or omit pieces of an experience if it’s not relevant to the story. I’ll tweak a scene or conversation to gel the story together. All in the name of good storytelling.

I’m not great at this yet, but I’m trying.

“Why?” is often the next question people ask me.

Because, that’s why.

  • Because writing is therapy. Recollecting the past gives you a different picture when you do it on paper than simply in your head. Translating feelings into words can add a new dimension of clarity and closure.

  • Because writing is enriching. Remembering the past is a way to distill important lessons for the future. Some of my grandest epiphanies have come while I was writing.

  • Because writing is fun. Reliving the past is like getting a free second ride. I’ve always dreamed up worlds ever since I was a kid playing with my Transformers. We all have. Perhaps the difference with me is that I never really stopped dreaming about those worlds.

  • Because I want to be a storyteller. I want to be one of those grandfathers who can tell his grandkids funny and fantastic stories. Unfortunately, I’ll never get to slay a dragon or rescue a princess, but if I can tell a good enough story, hopefully it’ll bring a smile to my grandkids.

I started this site way back in November 1998. Kind of a long time ago, huh? My oldest entries suck monkey ass. They’re still online, archived and available for the world to point and laugh. I’ve written almost every weekend since then. Occasionally, life gets too busy and I miss a weekend or two. But if I can, I’ll write.

In my library are a few books on the art of writing. I try to take this craft seriously. One of the main lessons is to write a lot and write often. Hence this site. Almost every week since November 1998 ought to be a lot, eh? All of this practice ought to improve my craft, I hope.

This is why some of my entries aren’t 100% true. If I gave you the entire experience, it wouldn’t be the same. First, there’s all the background information. Who’s who, what’s what, why she’s saying this, why he’s doing that.

Then there’s the ugly fact that, well, real-life dialogue sounds crappy on paper. They’re full of grammatical mistakes, “ums” & “uhs”, clich├ęs, and colloquialisms. Even news reporters know this—many (but not all) edit their interviews so their subjects sound more intelligent.

A packaged experience flows much better. Everyone knows this subconsciously. Let’s say Bob is telling you what happened to him last night. As he tells his story, you get lost in his words. There seems to be no point, no reason behind it. You feel like he’s spewing verbal diarrhea all over your ears. (Nice image, huh?)

Now say Bill is telling you about that same night. Except he’s able to make it sound exciting and crazy and funny. You’re enraptured, you’re hooked in, you’re listening to every word. When Bill relates the experience, it sounds like a fantastic night. But when Bob tells it, it sounds like a bore.

What’s the difference? Bill is a better storyteller because he is able to package up the experience and present it with a neat little bow. Sure, he omitted certain incidents and exaggerated others for comedic value, but by doing so, his story flows much better.

That’s basically what I’m doing too.

I hope it’s not too much of a shock for you, but yes, I, Mike Lee, am a liar. I’ve been feeding you lies since November 1998. I’ve been looking through my Storyteller Lens and using careful yet generous creative license to package my experiences, all for the art of good storytelling.

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  • Eric

    MAN! I thought you’re some really lucky dude who lives a really interesting life and have really awesome conversations with really cool friends. It’s all a lie!

  • http://www.mikelee.org Mike Lee

    It’s called “creative license”

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