Lies & Storytelling: Strange Bedfellows in Shades of Gray



WHO HASN’T HAD TO ENTER INTO AN ALMOST DAILY RELATIONSHIP WITH LIES IN OUR POLITICAL CLIMATE TODAY as we countdown to choosing our next president of the United States of America (#46).

“HE’S LYING!” “SHE’S LYING!” THE WORDS LIAR AND LYING KEEP BEING BANTERED, TOSSED, HURLED, yelled and spat. My ear distinguishes them in the cacophony of words used by guest panelists on CNN.

SOMETIMES IT’S SPOKEN IN A SUBDUED MANNER BY POLITICAL AND MEDIA WORDSMITHS. FOR SOME REASON when I hear it the child in me starts thinking–well, really singing in my head: “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

THOSE WHO LIE GET SPANKED IN A VARIETY OF WAYS NOW (OR NOT), but we’ll have to wait until November to learn who receives the final punishment. Unfortunately, lies are often hurtful and harmful; yet, this leads me to share my thoughts and an experience about the relationship between lies and storytelling.

(Photo Source: Video Capture)
Column Inspiration:

CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION ARE THE BEDROCK OF GREAT LIES, TALL TALES; OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STORYTELLING. In fact, during my childhood, my mother wouldn’t say stop lying to me as much as she would say: “Stop telling stories!” Or perhaps I just want to remember it that way because it’s more palatable to me; and therefore, my recollection is fiction.

IS IT LYING IF I HAVE NO IDEA WHICH STORY IS REAL? If I just can’t remember? Do the best storytellers know the difference? Does it matter? Is there an ethics to storytelling? Depends on the context or situation? Yes. No. Maybe So. So we say.

AS A CHILD, I LEARNED LYING CAN CARRY SOME HARSH REPERCUSSIONS OF THE KARMIC VARIETY. Mom would ask me who took those cookies after she told us (my three siblings) not to touch them. My favorite answer was: “I don’t know.” I don’t know was an invisible entity in our household who did the things to which none of us wanted to admit. I couldn’t resist oatmeal cookies (and I have a pack that I really don’t need right now).

ONE DAY MY MOTHER PUT THE COOKIES HIGH UP IN THE CUPBOARD. AFTER SHE LEFT THE KITCHEN, I moved the step stool over to it, opened the cupboard, and reached behind the iron to get them. I knocked over the hot iron! It slid down my arm. I fell off the stool, and have a long, visible scar on my arm to this day. Storytelling usually doesn’t carry such hurtful results.

I received an A+ from my peers (aka the press) for an expert
complete and total fabrication . . . 


Convince People of the Nonexistent

MAKE UP A WORD THAT DOESN’T EXIST. CREATE A STORY AROUND THE WORD. GIVE A PRESS CONFERENCE CONCERNING IT. Use your co-workers, family or friends as the press. Make it a game. You have 20 minutes to prepare the story you are going to tell which is essentially a lie, not true, unreal.

IT’S NOT QUITE LIKE THE GAME “TO TELL THE TRUTH” WHERE THE AUDIENCE MUST GUESS WHO IS TRUTHFUL. Your audience already knows you’re making it up: but judge whether you excel at telling a story so effectively that it appears believable. You have ten minutes to address the press, and the press has ten minutes to ask you questions.

(Photo Source: Panon | Shutterstock)

Column Inspiration:

I CAN’T REMEMBER IF IT WAS MY ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS OR THE ART OF PERSUASION COURSE. IT WAS DURING THE FIRST WEEK of the semester. At the end of 20 minutes, I received an A+ from my peers (aka the press) for an expert complete and total fabrication.

THEY WANTED TO TOUR THE FACILITIES BUILT THROUGH GOVERNMENT and investor partnerships where the serum to preserve jungle eco-systems was created! They fired questions at me like crazy, and I answered every one of them with confidence and ease:

  • Question: In which jungle in what country did you test the serum? How do you know it works in every jungle in the world?
  • Answer:
    We created huge greenhouse facilities here in the U.S. in Arizona, took a sample of every major plant species from each jungle, recreated each environment, we introduced the known variables to-date that serve as threats, and tested the serum for two years.We were meticulous and committed to almost a religious fervor in our efforts since our failure or success impacts our children, our children’s children, who are our future. It would be incredibly monstrous and selfish for us as ancestors not to do everything we can to assure them healthy and safe environments.

Lies may indeed include reality but only as partial components,
never pure truth. 

LIES CAN BE LITTLE WHITE ONES OR HUGE WHOPPERS. THEY CAN BE USED TO DECEIVE, INJURE, PERSUADE, REFLECT, RE-DIRECT OR PROTECT. THEY ARE FICTION (KNOWN OR UNKNOWN)? Lies may indeed include reality but only as partial components, never pure truth.  Stories can be short or epic, and they can be used to hurt, harm or manipulate. Are they used with an intent to deceive as are lies?

THE BEST STORIES ARE ENGAGING IN WAYS THAT HELP US EMPATHIZE WITH THE CHARACTERS AND/OR SUBJECTS (sometimes environments, conditions, attributes, and situations) so we can connect and care; become interested, inspired or motivated, or
are moved to a powerful emotion or action (even inaction).

STORYTELLING CAN BE 100% FICTION (IMAGINATION) OR MIXED WITH ELEMENTS OF REALITY, or 100% non-fiction (truth, unlike lies) or mixed with elements of imagination (though kept secret in a lie of omission) in a multitude of creative forms that are ever expanding and bursting boundaries.

NOW TO USE all of this in a creative storytelling ways as part of the fabric of the human condition.

MAY YOU DISCOVER MORE CREATIVE ideas and storytelling support now (and in the future) by exploring the Creativity & Storytelling ‘Zine.


“Things are only impossible until they’re not.”
“Make it so.”
Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation


Valerie Mich’El Oliver explores the art and architecture of creativity and storytelling in imaginative, innovative, playful and award-winning ways. Tisch School of the Arts (New York University) and The Mystery School (Sacred Center for the Healing Arts) graduate. | Imagine, innovate, create, be generous, love this life, and dare to shine.