Writing a Good Story Is Like Building a Tower of Lies


Writers don’t build towers of stone – they are adventurers afraid of heights. They build towers of lies, to inspire those building towers of stone to build faster and build better, or to help those who lack the materials or the skills to build towers of stone to get an idea of how it feels to own one and live in it.

Good stories are high towers of lies, but they don’t crumble, because they are built on a rock-solid foundation of sober truths. Being below ground, the foundation cannot be seen, unless you look at the tower’s building plans – the author’s biography.

Identifying a truth you’ve discovered that is worth sharing with the world – often a tiny, personal truth, because everyone knows the big truths already – is a struggle with yourself that sometimes takes decades.

But a truth worth sharing with the world, one that maybe only you have discovered, is always there somewhere inside you, I think usually halfway between the heart and the brain.

When I started writing about two years ago I built towers of lies and they collapsed with the first wind, that is, the first time I reread them. Then I began to search for a truth that was worth sharing, something that would make for a strong foundation for all those lies I wanted to pile up high.

It took me some time but I think I found him, in the attic of my memory: Oliver Colors, the moonbeamed painter.

I made friends with Oliver and discovered in him the twin I had lost a long time ago. He was confused with our meeting, just like me, but he welcomed me into his attic. And there, in a shadowy corner, not far from his easel, I saw a great pile of stones.

‘These stones are most peculiar,’ he said, ‘they’ve always been here, but I don’t know what purpose they serve.’

I asked him to give them to me, and he said yes, provided that I will do my best to make him immortal, because that was what he most wanted. I agreed.

And I began building a new tower. And howling winds came – rereadings, rewrites, edits – and my tower did not collapse. And I’m still raising it. And soon it will tickle the clouds.

And later this year, when I will finish building it, I will give you the address so you can come see the wonder, and live in it for a while.


Do you want to visit my tower once it is ready?

(This is a republished post.)

37 thoughts on “Writing a Good Story Is Like Building a Tower of Lies

  1. “Great stories are towers of lies, sky-high, constructed from ugly materials sometimes, but they don’t crumble, because they are built on a rock-solid foundation of sober truths.” …..
    Well said my friend 🙂

      1. Hahaha this English woman wears them all year round … and by all accounts your eyes must be sensitive to daylight if you mostly only venture out in the nightly depths? As for eccentric …

  2. Enjoyed reading this. I agree with one of the earlier commentors, sublime in the meeting.
    I want to visit the tower too,
    What a fun way to spend a few minutes in my day.

  3. Your post provoked a thought.

    Fiction is, by definition, a pile of lies. But that label carries with it a negative connotation. Lies are things we say to deceive, to mislead, to bring either harm to another or good to ourselves while evading the truth. While it is true that many lies have a foundation in a grain of truth, many of them don’t.

    Some lies have positive outcomes, ie your girlfriend not killing you for calling her fat. But a lie is still a lie, and still frowned upon.

    What we do is labelled as “fiction”. We are not deceiving anyone with our stories (zealous fans aside) nor are we trying to. A lie told in the context of purposely and obviously being a lie is, in spirit, not a lie at all. It is a legend, a myth, a story, a wonderful creation full of sound and fury.

    Oh, I hope you don’t mind me reblogging this with my comments. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Dragon Stories and commented:
    A tower of lies or a tower of myths? Lies are negative things, hurtful things. Lies are told in secret whispers or dark shadows. Myths, well, those are told in the open. And who could seriously blame them? Mythology is a wondrous and powerful claxon of an author’s being. A good story flows like a river of blood through an author’s veins. It is written and labeled as “fiction” so that it is NOT a lie.

    Despite all this, thought-provoking post, boy with a hat. You have earned a follow.

  5. “But a truth worth sharing with the world… usually halfway between the heart and the brain.”

    It’s a delicate and difficult balance to strike. But necessary. I ever have trouble getting out of my head, thinking of how I plan to use my tower of lies to show those personal truths and into my heart where the journey up is a pleasure for all.

    I ever loved this Stendhal quote which to me is the tower of lies you speak of: “Style is this: To add to a given thought all the circumstances fitted to produce the whole effect which the thought is intended to produce.”

    I wish you success in your lying endeavors.

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