I make sh*t up...I must be human! - J. Kenner

I make sh*t up…I must be human!

I’m taking an online class (April Kilhstrom’s Book-in-a-Week, which is amazing by the way), and she addresses both fiction and nonfiction books.

As I was reading through some of the lessons yesterday, something about those words got stuck in my craw. Now, I’m not a linguist by any stretch of the imagination (and I’m far too lazy to actually look up either word’s etymology—I only have a few hours until the kids wake up, after all), but I found it interesting that the base word is FICTION (made up stuff) and the antonym of that word is NONfiction (truth – but we’ve had to actually add a negative prefix in order to create that word).

Hmmm.

So what’s the bottom line? Why is this on my mind? Well, it seems to me that language elevates that which we value and need the most first and then adds in embellishments. If that’s true, then what humans (or, at least, English speaking humans) need with regard to the relaying of information in a narrative format is a story. Just a story, and truth be damned. We want the tale, the excitement, the adventure. We want FICTION. Sometimes, though, we need fact-based narratives, and then we fall back on NONfiction, but our core, our essence, is to crave story-telling — listening to and/or spinning those tales that keep us on the edge of our seats.

Which means that all those cave paintings representing the tribal men defeating the wooly mammoth? Quite possibly embellishment (or, perhaps, a You Too Can Kill a Mammoth instruction manual). Politicians? They’re not lying….no, they’re simply defaulting to their natural state and putting out fiction in the process.

And me? Well, I make a living by making sh*t up.

Guess that makes me human.

P.S. – I’ve got a related post about embellishing stories over at my cyber buddy S.M. Nonnemacher’s site. Come say hi!

What do you think? Does spinning a tale come more naturally to you than laying out the facts? Have you ever noticed a word or words that struck you as intriguing?

10 Comments

April Plummer

I’ve always wondered why we call it “non”fiction when it is in fact the truth. It’s always seemed strange to me.

I gotta be honest though. Spinning tales doesn’t come naturally to me. At least, not in my daily life. I speak the truth. I don’t feel the need to tell a story about how the dragon breathed fire on my homework or how the ghost stole my toothbrush. :) I just don’t. Even when I write, I have to be in the writing mindset to create a story. Otherwise, I’ll end up writing a letter to someone or making a list instead. I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it. You’d think I wasn’t a writer or something. LOL

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Julie

Oh, that’s funny. Not me. My instinct is to make it up. “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” “Baked yak and fried wooly mammoth” “Mom, is today a school day?” “No, today’s Disneyland.”

Of course, maybe that’s not fiction. Maybe it’s just an overabundance of sarcasm.

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Carrie Daws

It’s funny you write about this because just a couple days ago I was doing a grammar lesson with my 9 year old and he was SOOOO confused over the words fiction and nonfiction. His entire assignment was to identify whether the story title depicted fiction or nonfiction stories … and he got them all backwards because of “non”. I tried to explain that nonfiction is really truth — and he was arguing back that “non” means “not”. Sigh … No wonder so many people struggle to learn English! LOL….

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Julie

Oh, that is funny! Well, not for him, poor kid. Mine are so frustrated until it “clicks”. But the coincidence? Yes, funny. And no kidding. Maybe Orwell’s newspeak has value? Good. Ungood. :)

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Liv Rancourt

Now there’s some food for thought. Applying the same logic to ‘matter’ and ‘anti-matter’ creates an interesting parallel. ‘Matter’ has substance, while ‘anti-matter’ is the absence of matter. In some very important ways, it’s fiction that has the substance, I think.
Peace,
Liv

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Sara Walpert Foster

Well Julie, I think we’re drinking the same Kool-Aid. Definitely the purple kind.

I love your comment about the cave paintings maybe being embellished or maybe being a manual. What a cockeyed take on that picture.

This was a fun post to read and I learned a little something as well.

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Cora Ramos

Maybe those cave paintings were wishful thinking. So maybe today’s fiction is tomorrow’s non-fiction. Think of Jules Verne. Uh, maybe we don’t want to think of H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds on second thought. Hmmm.

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