The best storytellers are liars

It’s the first time Patricia and I are in Dublin, and we’re doing all the obvious touristy things. 

When our feet get sore and we have enough of street buskers singing “With or Without You,” we walk into a pub and ask if we can still get some lunch. 

The waitress tells us, 

“I think we’re full, but you can try your luck upstairs.” 

So we walk up a spiral staircase to this tiny mezzanine restaurant. There are only eight tables, but one is still available. 

As we sit down, we realise that on the next table, drinking wine with a friend and eating from a large bowl of mussels, is none other than Javier Bardem. 

This is right after he’s gotten an Oscar for No Country for Old Men and been a James Bond villain, so I think, 

“Huh, that’s pretty cool” - but Patricia is beside herself. Not only she loves his movies, but she also has a huge crush on him.  

“I’m going to ask him for a picture,” she says, and I grimace. 

He’s got a reputation for not being nice to his fans, and I just know that if he’s rude to her it will ruin the rest of her holiday, so I say,  

“Listen, he’s in the middle of lunch, he probably doesn’t want to be bothered, if we just take a selfie he’ll be right behind us…”

“I’ll wait until he’s done eating, I’m sure it will be fine.”

We try to enjoy our lunch, but between Patrícia checking if he’s finished, and the noises he makes slurping the mussels, we just can’t. 

Once it looks like he’s done, she walks over, and I can’t tell which one of us is more nervous.  

“I’m really sorry to bother you, but I’m a huge fan, it would really mean a lot to me if I could take a picture with you,” she says to him in Spanish. 

Javier Bardem puts his wine glass down, looks up at my wife and says, 

“NO. Can’t you see I’m in the middle of a conversation?!?”

He turns his back on her and starts talking to his friend. 

She stands there for a moment. The she walks back to the table, fuming. 

Ever since that day, I’m not allowed to watch his movies - and Patricia has learned that just because you admire someone’s work, it doesn’t mean you’ll like them as a person. 

I need to be honest

I just lied to you. Multiple times.  

I lied about who was sitting with Javier Bardem. I think it was his brother, the guy looked a lot like him – but explaining that would take too long.  

I lied about the movies he’d done: those might have been just before I met him, or right after – but all that matters is that you know he’s a famous actor.  

I lied about the things Patricia and I said to each other, those weren’t our exact words – but getting dialogue perfect from memory is impossible. 

Finally, I lied about one major thing: there were six of us that day in the pub – but that would make the story needlessly complicated. 

We’re not journalists, so the exact details and dialogue are not important. What’s important is being honest about the truth of the story: what happened, how did the characters feel, and what was learned from it. 

What lies can you tell? 

Lies of omission are ok, lies of commission are not. 

You can remove things from the story if they don’t change anything meaningful, and that includes 

  • simplifying dialogue

  • shortening timelines

  • taking out characters  

  • giving the actions or dialogue of a few to just one  

That’s all good - and needed. Otherwise stories become too long, slow and boring. But you can’t invent things. You’re not writing fiction.

Here’s a test: If you'd feel embarrassed or concerned to tell the story to someone who was there, you’ve changed too much. But you need to change some things.  

My friends sometimes say, 

“Well, that wasn’t exactly what happened,” and I ask, 

“Of course, it would take too long to tell exactly what happened, but that was essentially what happened, wasn’t it?”  

“Yeah, for sure” - that’s absolutely fine. 

The best storytellers are liars. 

Tell some lies in your stories and you’ll become more memorable than a chance meeting with Javier Bardem in Dublin 🤘


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