Monday, September 14, 2015

The Lying Author

You could make an argument that all fiction authors are really professional liars who spin wild stories out of thin air...but they are honest about one thing: the fact that they’re lying. But there are other authors, those who claim to write non-fiction stories that actually aren’t. This is the story of a lying author who spun a wild tale -- and couldn’t live with what he did. This is a story about integrity, and the writers who don’t have it.


Not-So-Sweet Little Lies

Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance was born Sylvester Clark Long before he changed his name. He used his changed name to publish his autobiography, "Redman Echoes," in 1928. An adventurous tale of a young boy who was the son of a Blackfoot Native American Chief, the story was thrilling. It was also a huge hit. Almost overnight, Chief Buffalo Child became a celebrity and his book became a must-read. Literary critics, anthropologists and fans heaped praise upon him. Soon, the Chief was being invited to fancy New York parties and traveling the country to speak about Native American causes. He even endorsed a shoe. The man was a rock star of the literary world. There was just one problem: he was a huge liar.

It all started to unravel rather quickly, as soon as 1929. Long Lance was starring in a film about Native Americans (though that's not what they were called at the time), but the movie's Native American advisor started to become suspicious. It seems the good author got a little too cagey when he was asked honest questions, because that is how liars behave, and then the whispers began.

The investigation was launched, and it was discovered pretty soon that the author was an imposter. His father was no Blackfoot chief, he was a school janitor in North Carolina. Almost instantly, Long Lance was cut out of the social circles that had previously loved him. No one likes a liar.

In 1932, Long Lance died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It's a tragic ending to a sad and twisted story of a man who was afraid to tell the truth. As his lies grew bigger and bigger, he did everything he could to maintain the fiction.

But when you're trying to pretend that your fiction is reality, all those lies can get really difficult to juggle. Eventually, you drop one...and then the whole ugly house of cards comes crashing down. Lying rarely ever pays off, and I know because I had a hard time picking just one author and one book to write this post about. There are many more stories I could tell you about liars. Once you've been labeled as a liar and a fraud, you may never write anything again...and hopefully, you won't end up like the poor Chief of this sad tale.

So tell the truth about your fiction, or tell the truth with your non-fiction. Either way, just tell the truth because being a lying author (or a lying person) is only going to hurt you the worst in the end.

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