Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Vital Lie

vital lie--a cultural convention or moral absolute one or more front-rank characters in a story believes to be true, then comes to realize is bogus; an ethical principal or position taken by an antagonist in opposition to a protagonist; the moral license for politically motivated behavior.

The vital lie in fiction is the attitudinal and entitled platform of characters who represent a mindset and way of life that appears to withhold acceptance to the protagonist and his or her associates. The lie may begin with characters from the privileged classes referring to working-class individuals as "good country people," signifying a surface respect that barely masks a patronizing sneer. It may just as well have its origins in the envy-riddled contempt with which the working classes regard the affluent.

To dramatize the vital lie, the writer needs to determine the pole star of a representative character, then construct a plausible path for the character to have followed in order to arrive there.

The vital lie is the elephant in the living room, the thing that is seen but not acknowledge; it is variously gender prejudice, racial prejudice, class prejudice. It is story in the making.

Every culture has at least one. Like humor, the vital lie always has a target

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