True Story. Promise!

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Writers are often accused of being liars. Lets face it, our job description is making shit up. But there are times when we do tell the truth, or as close to the truth as we can get. There are, after all, three versions to the truth – my side, your side, and what actually happened. Truth can be subjective. I learnt a long time ago that when telling a story that is based on fact, it’s probably a good idea to stick as close to the facts as possible, it’s also the best way to tell a convincing lie. But we’re not here to talk about lying, we’re here to talk about telling a true story and how often when you’re telling the truth, people still think you’re lying.

The first time I was accused of being a liar was in primary school. I was about nine or ten and I’d made the mistake of, rather proudly, telling my class about a few ancestors of mine. One particular ancestor had been a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette. She and her husband, the count D’Arcy, managed to flee from Paris just before they would have lost their heads with the rest of the French aristocracy. I further compounded my mistake by telling the class that my grandmother was a Grant, as in Grants Whisky. Unfortunately the very rich Grants in Scotland don’t know that our branch of the family exists, but we still refuse to have any other brand in our home. And then there was the fact that my Grandfather broke the Japanese code during the Second World War. Needless to say my teacher and the rest of the class cried foul and my mother was summoned to please explain her daughters lies. My mother took great pleasure in informing that dear teacher that I was, in fact, telling the truth and that we had documented proof to back me up on all counts. That shut her up pretty darn quick, except I don’t remember her ever letting the rest of the class know that I’d been telling the truth and as a result I was branded a liar. I proudly carried that scarlet L on my chest the rest of my time there. I also learnt to stop bragging, or at least I tried to stop, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

A little more recently, while over a dinner, I recounted some funny anecdotes (well, I think they’re funny) about my time in Namibia. I spent two years in Windhoek, the capital city, when I was a teenager. We lived on a hill, in an area called Klein Windhoek. Namibia is a pretty wild country. It’s the kind of place where you don’t simply pick up a rock in your garden, unless you want to be bitten or stung by something that’ll put you in the hospital or kill you. If you want to move that rock or stone, you nudge it with your foot, make sure nothing is under it, then you pick it up. We also had a nest of scorpions who made their home above our front door. That was an interesting experience.

At the time Baboons roamed the hill behind us and as we were in the last row of houses against the hill, the baboons would have a lovely time invading our gardens, even at night. The standing advice we were given for dealing with the situation was stay inside, don’t confront them or you will get ripped to shreds. On one of those evenings, I heard a noise outside my bedroom window, so I pulled open my curtain and came face to face with a rather large baboon. I of course, being a teenage girl, freaked. My mother came running down the passage to see what I was screaming about and also got a fright when she saw the baboon staring back at us.

I’ve told this story a few times over the years and it’s usually well received, but on this occasion one of the people having dinner with us also happened to be a bit of a wildlife expert. I on the other hand am not. He pointed out that it’s very rare for baboons to be active at night. I immediately started second guessing myself, but I wasn’t lying. The truth was on my side. I had, however, failed to tell the story properly and explain that it was during a horrific drought and that the baboons were being forced down from the hill in order to find food. Hunger will make even the wildest of creatures behave uncharacteristicly.

The lesson I learned from both of these occasions is if you’re going to tell a true story have the facts to back you up and tell it the way you would if you were making it up. Make sure you have a good beginning, a great middle and an incredible ending. Otherwise your audience thinks you’re full of crap and is bored. Those are never good things. The number one rule for telling a story is: be entertaining!

Have you got any entertaing stories from your life that whenever you tell them people think you’re lying?

Misbehave horribly!

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