There’s a Tracy Chapman song called Telling Stories that starts like this:
There is fiction in the space between
The lines on your page of memories
Write it down but it doesn’t mean
You’re not just telling stories
How often do we hear the phrase “telling stories” to mean that you’ve made it all up rather than you’re actually relating something that happened. When I took a Landmark Forum workshop many years ago, the trainers regularly confronted individuals by saying, “that’s your story” meaning that’s what you tell yourself instead of the truth.
The way we use the word story it can mean fiction or fact. Authors pick stories out of their imaginations and hope that their skills will bring the reader into another reality. Autobiographers present the stories of their lives as accurately as they can, trying to stick to the truth, to tell their story. The most notorious exception of late is James Frey who was exposed by The Smoking Gun for making up most of his non-fiction memoir, A Million Little Pieces. The country (and Oprah) were angered and felt deceived.
As story listeners, we need to know if what we’re hearing is “just a story” (made up) or if it is a true story. Conflict abides in the space in between truth and lies: how much easier it would be if we knew the difference.