I was interested in the questions raised by Fandango, the creator of This, That, and The Other, in FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION:
How do you feel about people who always seem to exaggerate when relating a story?
Do you equate embellishment with lying?
As a blogger, when, if ever, is stretching the truth, other than when writing fiction, permissible?
Interesting questions indeed. My immediate thought was how embellishments are often used to adorn, make pretty, add sparkle, bring a wow factor. The word “embellishments” I use regularly in a work context, because I currently deal with a lot of high-fashion items. I see some exquisite embellishments that draw the eye and make a garment a lot more attractive.
I also thought about this planet. It could be black and white, it could be boring and and without variety – can you imagine what life would be like if we only had the basics essential for survival? – BORING!!! I am so glad that this planet is full of embellishments and life is so colourful and exciting.
There are some delightful quotes from astronauts describing what they have seen through their eyes, their view of Planet Earth from outer space. I, of course, have never seen this planet from outer space. Even if I detect their descriptions are rather poetic and perhaps they have employed embellishments, I do not question their integrity when they describe this planet as a magnificent jewel. Here is one of my favourite astronaut quotes:
Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home.
– Edgar Mitchell, USA
I guess the question is, when is that appropriate and when is it not appropriate to use embellishments in a written context? Is there a risk that a reader might be misled, deceived, duped, fooled and have a reason to take offence?
I thought I would try to tackle each one at a time – but I am tired after three very long days at work, so I think instead I will throw a few examples and thoughts around and see if it makes up a sensible reply to this question:
The first example I am going to cite was part of a comment I sent to Fandango himself on Wednesday. If I write in one of my posts that Goldfinch is THE most gorgeous man on the planet – how do you feel about that? Am I exaggerating?
Well…in my eyes, there is no other man who elicits the kind of inner reaction I feel on beholding Goldfinch. There is no other man that makes me feel the way he does – so in many respects, Goldfinch may as well be THE most gorgeous man on the planet.
I would presume that anyone who read my claim would be able to determine that I am not being dishonest or deceptive in my claim. There is no other man as gorgeous in my eyes. I don’t expect bloggers to be queuing up to question my integrity as a writer when expressing my adoration of my Goldfinch.
Sometimes a blogger is telling us honestly how they feel, or how they see a situation or the world at large. We don’t all see things the same way. I wouldn’t presume they are trying to mislead anyone. They are opening up a bit of their heart and sharing the way they see things. I have the common sense to realize that their view could be slightly biased, but in most cases I find it endearing and charming.
My second thought is simply a repetition of something other bloggers have stated. If I log on to the BBC news website I hope very much to trust that the reports are factual and that facts and figures are not exaggerated. If I look at the NHS Choices website to find out about my symptoms and the course of action to take, I would hope they would not exaggerate any information causing me to become alarmed.
But a blogger who makes their writing colourful and animated – well in all honesty, I enjoy their posts far more than I do reading a news website or a technical site.
If a blogger is claiming that their posts are authoritative, then they clearly should make sure none of their information is exaggerated. Otherwise, people will lose confidence in their claims.
I personally don’t read posts from bloggers to find out about the news and I don’t put all my trust into any bloggers posts endorsing any particular diet, pills, potions, lotions and I steer very clear of advice on financial matters. However, I might still enjoy their style of writing, the efforts they put into making their posts attractive. But I just feel more confidant referring to more well-established sources for any kind of information on lifestyle and health matters and a balanced representation of what is happening in the news.
Creative writing I expect to be delicious to read. I welcome elaborate metaphors and descriptions that paint a vivid scene in my head. The more embellishments, the more likely I am going to keep reading.
In fact sometimes, I find myself feasting on the elaborate way a writer uses language to conjour up fantastic scenes. I prefer to read in vivid technicolour rather than a plain black and white cold factual style – the kind of writing that belongs in the booklet that came with the new microwave my landlady bought me.
When someone is relating a real-life experience, I use my common sense the same way I do in daily conversation.
I have worked with teenagers and young adults who describe something with unbridled enthusiasm. “The band they went to see perform put on the best concert EVER!” “He is soooooooo cool – even the teachers are nervous around him.” “Everyone drinks this new softdrink – like the whole world drinks it.”
That’s alright. I remember being exactly that excitable when I was a teenager. I am little bit older than they are, so I have toned down the way I try to impress a point on others. But I think only someone on the cynical side would start to question the motives in someone’s eagerness to convey a point in perhaps “over-animated” terms. I don’t equate those kind of embellishments as them being deceitful or “lying”. I have the common sense not to pick up on their obvious excitement about what they are telling me.
Another thing about exaggerations or embellishments is that sometimes they make for fantastic comedy posts. I love that personally. Here are a couple of examples I found:
I enjoy it when I read a post from a blogger who paints absolutely hilarious scenes. I have the common sense to understand the writer is not lying or being deceptive.
One more thing that I will add (this post is becoming much too long) is that the real life experiences of some people may seem hard to believe at times if we have never had a similar experience. But if you have lived a lot, and not stayed at home for most of your life, I don’t think you find it as hard to believe other people’s experiences at all.
When we came back from Africa, we were describing things that some of our friends found hard to believe. Those who had been to Africa did not find them hard to believe. For example, I remember telling people about the tro-tros (a bit like mini-buses that are used as public transport). We saw tro-tros that were packed. Every seat was taken, and in some cases people were sharing seats. There were passengers sitting on top of the roof of some tro-tros. We even saw some passengers clinging to the back door. It’s hard to imagine if you have never seen it. I am sure some of our friends thought that we were exaggerating when we told them what we saw. But all of our friends who had been to Africa nodded because the had seen it tOo.
Often I will read another bloggers experiences and perhaps find them hard to relate to. For example, I have never been a mother before, and when I read posts from parents who are all “ga-ga” over their younglings, I may wonder if they are slightly intoxicated? But I still enjoy their passion and enthusiasm.
So there may be times you are reading a blogger’s post and you find it hard to believe or relate to. But you may be reading a very accurate report. If you are overly cynical because you have never had a similar experience, or have had less opportunity to travel then you might be missing out.
On that note, I would recommend not becoming too sensitive about what you read on other blogs. If you are becoming provoked, my advice would be:
GET A LIFE!
I mean it, get up off the sofa or wherever else you blog from, and get out into the big wide exciting world and live a bit. Have a few adventures. See things you have never seen before, try food you have never tasted before. Hey, you may even have the chance to go and see this planet from outer space – who knows? Live life more fully and then come back and please do write about it.
I would love to read your colourful, animated posts and would not take offence at any perceived embellishments of your adventures, knowing that much of what I read may well be very accurate. Life is full of beauty, sparkle, wow-factor, embellishments that are not necessary for our survival but yet they fill our hearts with joy and wonder.
If you are becoming cranky at what other bloggers write about…perhaps you have been staring at screens for too long. Stop existing and start living. The internet is not life.