Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is Truth Stranger Than Fiction?


I recently took advantage of the reduced price and downloaded the ebook version of Catch Me If You Can, supposedly based on the exploits of con man Frank Abignale, Jr. I found the book fascinating, although it was hard to believe that a young man (he was in his teens when he began impersonating a Pan Am Airways pilot) could do all that. Of course, at the end of the book he was arrested and sent to jail, but I still had an uncomfortable feeling that his illegal and hedonistic exploits were glorified throughout the first 80% or more of the book.

Then, after reading the notes at the end of the book I searched for more and found a post by him that explained a lot about the writing of the work. According to Abignale, the writer met with him only four times, changed a number of the exploits (I guess we'd call it "literary license"), and glorified the criminal and what he'd done--because that's what it would take to sell the book (and later the rights for a movie). In other words, the truth was not only stranger than fiction, it wouldn't sell.

All this made me wonder how much truth is in some of the so-called autobiographies and memoirs by well-known individuals "as told to" or "with" another writer. There's a saying among writers that fiction must be believable, while real life often isn't. Do you think that's true?

Image from Wikipedia.

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3 comments:

Patricia Bradley said...

Definitely agree truth is stranger than fiction! Fiction has to make sense while life doesn't.

Terri Tiffany said...

I saw that movie and wondered too how much was truth or made-up. Our lives aren't that intersting for the most part so I imagine that many books based on lives are stretched somewhat.

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia and Terri, thanks for your comments. I'd often wondered how true some of these books, especially those "as told to," were. I agree--fiction has to make sense, and non-fiction (to sell) must as well.