You've heard it, haven't you?
Albert Camus said: "Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth."
Stephen King said, "Fiction is the truth inside the lie."
William Faulkner said, "A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth, and that is why we call what he writes fiction."
Neil Gaiman said, "Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent."
Marcia said, "Balderdash."
Congenitally unable to tell the truth? Actually, the rest of the quotes come much closer to getting it right. They get that fiction is a vehicle for truth, in which novelists are highly interested or they wouldn't write novels.
Still, I have to quibble with that lie part. In fact, it drives me bananas, and this is why: It comes across as a shallow attempt to get a laugh or appear wise, when actually it's much too facile a comparison for these intelligent thinkers to let themselves get away with.
Does knowledge equal wisdom? No. Do facts equal truth? No. Does invention equal lies? Of course not!
I have to say, though: there's a book for writers by Lawrence Block called Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. That's just plain witty and cute, and brings a smile. Probably because it doesn't take itself seriously.
So -- what do you think? Are fiction writers lying when they create a story that everyone knows from the start is not happening to real people, named those names, in exactly that way?