Just returned home from a fabulous weekend of storytelling at the George West Storyfest in George West, Texas. Find the George West Storyfest info here. This was the 26th year for Storyfest and folks who attended saw some of the finest storytelling ever.
I'm personally a big fan of festivals like this - the food, the music, the storytelling, and the storytellers.
I competed in the Texas State Liar's Contest and took home 2nd prize - I suppose I'm almost the best liar in Texas as of today. I've competed in Liar's contests before - and it always makes me wonder:
Where's the line between a great story and a great lie?
I've always preferred telling stories that I have created myself - they are easier to remember, no one else knows when you mess something up, and you can pull them out of your brain at a moments notice. For the most part, I start creating a new story with a few small grains of truth - and embellish as necessary, like a chef making subtle changes to a recipe.
To me a good lie has to ultimately be believable at its core - can the listener really see this situation happening to a person, or to themselves? Can they relate to a similar thing that has happened to them in the past? People of course have their own lifetime of experiences to draw on - but at its core the lie must be believable.
Remember that old standard "my dog ate my homework." Most everyone has owned a dog, or knows someone who has a dog, and has seen or been told about a dog eating someone's favorite slipper, or food off the coffee table, or chewing a hole in a new pair of socks. My oldest son once smeared some spaghetti sauce on a homework sheet to prove that it could happen - and our dog munched and licked and chewed his way through questions about 6th grade geometry. When my son rescued the remainder of the paper and presented it to his teacher, she gave him a new copy and he wound up with an extra day to complete the assignment.
Now he could have simply told his teacher about the dog, but actually have the chewed remains helped to bring the story home with feeling.
When I tell a lie specifically for a Liar's Contest - I try to keep that situation in mind. I ask myself three important questions about the story I'm selecting:
1) How many people in the audience will really believe the story is plausible in the first place? 2) Will the situation in the story be accessible to them - will they get it? 3) Can I deliver the story with a straight face?
If you are crafting a lie or judging one of your stories for suitability as a lie - you can ask those same questions. If you can get a "yes" answer on all of them - you probably have the start of a great Lie.
Remember it's not just that the story is just plain untrue - it's more that the story could be true.