Friday, December 3, 2010

Contest Winners and Literary Devices Part 7: False Documents

Thank you all for joining in my 500 Followers Contest to celebrate independent bookstores! I used to help pick the winners. They and their corresponding bookstores, are:

I'll be emailing you shortly to get you your gift cards!

And now on to today's post.

Have you heard of using false documents in fiction? The one I remember the most is The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, who pretends that he's abridging the original tome written by S. Morgenstern.

S. Morgenstern was likely a tongue-in-cheek reference to Johann Carl Simon Morgenstern, who coined the term Bildungsroman, a type of story that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the main character.

I'm so gullible. When I first read this book as a teen, I thought he was telling the truth and even sent a letter to the publisher Harcourt to request the missing scene. They never wrote back. :(

BUT it turns out you can now request it at this website, which I just did. Finally. After like 20 years, I get to read it!!! (*Rubs hands together, cackling to myself*)

Okay, I just got the email. All I have to say is, "D'OH!"

I guess I'm still so gullible. Anywho.

Here are a bunch of other examples: Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, The Name of the Rose, The Handmaid's Tale, The Club Dumas and... a ton of others.

So...what do you think of "false documents" in fiction, either as documents within the novel, or the novel itself pretending to be a truth? Have you ever done this in your own storytelling?


Christine Danek said...

Congrats to the winners.
I don't think I have done false documents. Interesting.

Laura Pauling said...

I don't mind. If a writer can pull off a false document and make me believe it then all the better. All to say that I tend to steer away from it with my writing because I feel like I'm like lying or misconstruing history.

salarsenッ said...

Congrats to the winners.

As far as false documents, no I haven't. But I've always wondered how one approaches that. I guess like any other fictional element.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Truth or fiction? In fiction, it's all game. :) Thanks for another interesting post.
In the end notes for REVOLUTION, Jennifer Donnelly cites sources for the historical information she weaves in a fictional diary.

C. N. Nevets said...

I love the way it was done in The Princess Bride. Jack Higgins used a little of the false document technique in many of his WWII thrillers.

For my money, the most brilliantly executed false document novel is Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton. Not only does it purport to be a edited translation itself, but it is filled with footnotes and references to corroborating documents and scholarly articles. To this day, as much as I know it's fiction, I can't bring myself to swear that all the documents are false.

After reading that book, I gave up trying it on my own, because I thought I could never achieve that level of greatness.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to the winners!!!!

LOL, yeah, I'm pulling the "false document" in my current rewrite. *grins* I don't mind if an author uses a fake book.

Melissa Gill said...

I too am so gullible, I probably thougth that all of those false document were real. I need to read The Princess Bride myself.

I do have a story idea on my list that involves a false document, but don't know if I'll ever write it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Congrats winners!

Until now, I'd never heard of false documents, or at least never thought about it.

Angela Felsted said...

I love them. I think it's a creative thing to use. That's a pretty funny story about how you requested a false document, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm another one whose never heard of false documents,once again I've learnt something new just by visiting your blog Lydia.

Carol Kilgore said...

Hmmmm...not sure. Maybe. Dan Brown comes to mind.

Slamdunk said...

Congrats to your winners--what a great way to end the week.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I never really thought about this, but yea I like it! Like you said though it has you anxious to find it, lol! That's where an author could really have fun with readers and do a spin off or a web game :)

Thanks!!!! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats to the winners.

Lydia, I have never heard of the false documents before. Will now try to read more about it. Thanks for alerting me about it.

Matthew Rush said...

Another awesome example: The Necronomicon: from pretty much all of HP Lovecraft's stories.

Congrats winners!

Holly Ruggiero said...

Congrats to the winners.

I think they are kind of cool.

Colene Murphy said...

Congrats to your winners!!

I think they're fun.

Sondrae Bennett said...

I can't think of any false documents but there are plenty of novels out there where women pretend to be men. One of the most popular is Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"

The Golden Eagle said...

Congrats to the winners!

Interesting idea . . . I've never tried it, but it sounds like a great idea to experiment with!

Carol Riggs said...

I LOVE the Princess Bride! It was the first DVD I ever bought. :)

JK Rowling had fake books in her HP novels--but of course, no one would mistake her magical book titles for the real things. Susan Fletcher's DRAGON'S MILK (and her accompanying trilogy) had quotes at the beginning of each chapter, from invented books, one which was called THE BOK OF DRAGON.

I haven't made up books in my own novels, but I've made up video game names, and music bands (DarkWorlds Extreme, Battle Ring Seven, and Masters of the Cyberverse for games, and Beat'n Golden for a band name). I even decided to use Battle Ring Seven for the story idea/title of another novel. Hopefully no one will think they are real things! *grin*

Em said...

Congrats to the winners!

I'm for them although with any literary device you have to be sure not to be too sweet, too dear. But if you can use one convincingly, in a way that draws the reader further in to the tale, as opposed to snapping them out of it, then by all means. And they'll allow movement in story that might not be easily done otherwise.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

No, I haven't.
And I'd never heard the word Bildungsroman until I saw it in the Publishers Weekly review of my novel. (Sadly, they didn't think I'd succeeded. Oh well.)

Old Kitty said...

Congratulations to the winners!!! Esp. to the fab Shannon Whitney Messenger!! Yay!

False documents in novels - gosh!! How interesting and intriguing!! I must read up on this type of plot device!!! Thank you! Take care

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Ahhh--I won? I never win anything. That is SO cool! Thank you!

And wow, I've never seen false documents before. I TOTALLY would have fallen for it too!

Donea Lee said...

OMG - I've totally believed that about The Princess Bride, too. *resists looking in mirror to see my d'oh face* Well, well... bravo to the writers who can pull it off! If I thought I could successfully snowball a whole reading community with a false document in my novel...I'd consider it. :)

Krispy said...

I think if it's done well, it can really add to the flavor of a book. :)

Hey, but I was totally tricked by the whole Princess Bride thing too!

Raquel Byrnes said...

I actually love it. It extends the imaginary world beyond the book.

And I remember that in the Princess Bride...I wanted all books to come with a "Good Parts" version. =)
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Anonymous said...

I haven't falsified any docs yet...but I will. I already know I will. I've haven't got to figuring them out and where they'll go in the series quite yet. Obviously I'm all for the fake book/docs it adds another element to an imaginary world that keeps it grounded and real in a readers mind.

Meredith said...

I LOVE The Princess Bride! I've never used false documents in my WiP, but there's always something intriguing about them.

Hanny said...

It's an interesting tool to use. I loved the Princess Bride too, and was also fooled when I first read it!
One of the major hoax-books that I've discovered is "Eaters of the Dead" by Michael Crichton. It's supposed to be the true story of the Beowulf legend taken from the journals of an Arab traveler in Scandinavia. It's also the basis for the movie "13th Warrior."

Jai Joshi said...

I think it's a fantastic device to pull the reader into a whole other level of believing. Love it although I've never used it myself.

And I adore the Princess Bride!


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of false documentation. I recently read a novel where the author used false and real documentation, clarifying which were which in the end book notes. Unless noted, any documentation in fiction I've considered as fiction. But maybe some were REAL!

The Words Crafter said...

Congratulations to the winners!!!!

I'm creating a couple magazines in my nano story and also a fictitious reporter in a real national newspaper. Do those count?

Lisa Gail Green said...

Such a cool post! You always point out these things that I haven't really thought about. I'd have to say the ultimate example is The Neverending Story. A book within a book.

Karen Lange said...

Congrats to the winners! Haven't thought about using false documents, but maybe someday. Love The Princess Bride! :)

Happy weekend,

The Red Angel said...

Wow, thanks so much Lydia for hosting
such a wonderful giveaway! I'm so excited, I can't wait to start shopping at Tipsy Teapot. :D


Jemi Fraser said...

Congrats to the winners!!

Good point on the false documents. They can really add to a story - depends on how the author and the skill with which they create it!

Munk Davis said...

I like your Princess Bride story. When I read the book, I got frustrated whenever Goldman left what I considered the main story.

Laura Eno said...

I have an award for you on my blog. :)
A Shift in Dimensions

Giles Hash said...

I think false documents are great. In fact they're part of the reason I love the Harry Potter series so much! They make the story-universe so much more real.

Janet Johnson said...

Congrats to the winner and wow on the false documents. I have ideas, but no idea if I'm right . . . and if its any comfort, I totally fell for the Princess Bride fraud, too. :D I still laugh about it. But what a great prelude (or whatever he called it) to the book.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love the idea of false documents. Cindy Pon did that in her novel, Silver Phoenix, referring to the ancient Book of Making, the Book of the Dead, the Book of Lands Beyond. It actually made me wonder if there were real world counterparts for these documents, but no, it was just her imagination. I thought it gave an added layer of depth to the story though.

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