Fandango's Provocative Question # FPQ

FPQ #12 — Embellishment or Lying?

Fandango of This, That & The Other posts a weekly question on an issue that requires discussion and debate. You can check this out here:Fandango’s Provocative Question

This week’s question is:

“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?”

Exaggerating, embellishing or embroidering the truth is not a nice thing. But is it really very bad? This depends greatly on circumstances and intentions.

Let me give you an example. Suppose I slip and fall and a friend tells other people about it.

She could say,”Tanya slipped and fell in the cafeteria.”

Or

“Tanya came rushing into the cafeteria. She wasn’t looking where she was going, so she slipped and fell.

As she fell, she tried to catch onto a table to steady herself. The table was loaded with a huge pile of cream puffs. These came crashing down on Tanya.

She was covered with cream as she sprawled on the floor. It really was quite a sight.”

What do you think makes for a more interesting story? The plain unvarnished truth or the embellished version?

Can embellishment be equated with lying? The answer to this question in my opinion depends on two factors: circumstances and intention.

Going back to the above example, my fall and my friend’s exaggerated account of it are not very grave circumstances. My friend’s embellished story is just to generate a little good natured humour at my expense. The intention is some harmless fun.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose a real estate agent who is selling a property embellishes its attributes.

Here the circumstances are serious as they involve a lot of money. Exaggerating or embellishing the features of the property would make the buyer give a better price. The intention in this case is to deceive someone into paying more money.

Such questions of ethics and morality are grey areas. They have to be decided individually. There is no “one size fits all”.

As bloggers we are duty bound to be truthful in whatever we write. We can, however,  let our imaginations run wild when we write fiction.

Other than fiction, we must always write correct and accurate information to the best of our ability. One exception is embroidering the truth for the sake of humour. To make a story funnier than it actually is, exaggerating and embellishing facts is justified.

Note: This is the post that was lost after scheduling. I referred to it in my last post:

Has this happened to you?

19 thoughts on “FPQ #12 — Embellishment or Lying?

  1. First, I’m glad you were able to recover your lost post. Second, as to the story of you slipping and falling in the cafeteria, if, in the process, you did, indeed, end up sprawled out on the floor covered with the cream from a pile of cream puffs on the table you overturned, then the way it was told was fine. And even if it was only a few cream puffs and you just had some cream on your sleeve, well, the story is just a bit of an exaggeration and is relatively harmless. But if you merely slipped and fell, but didn’t overturn a table and there were no cream puffs and you weren’t covered with cream from the puffs, then everything besides the fact that you fell in the cafeteria, while making the story more interesting and humorous, was a lie. So are you saying that if the intent of the lie is to make a story based upon a true event funnier than it actually was, that it’s okay to lie? Is that like “no harm, no foul”? Just curious (because I agree it’s no biggie).

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  2. I agree with Fandango, no harm no foul. But exaggeration to make fun of someone is even worse than laying. A good post. Like the way you cleared the point with an example. 😉👍

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  3. First, I wasn’t able to retrieve the post. I wrote it again.
    Secondly, I am so glad you read and commented.

    But as for the question you are posing, I am stumped for an answer. Basically, what I tried to to illustrate by the example was that embellishing facts is not wrong if it is done without malicious intent.
    When exaggeration is used to deceive or harm it is most definitely wrong.

    As I said in my post, this is a gray area and that is precisely why it is an FPQ.

    But I am still thinking about it………

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  4. It all boils down to integrity. I believe truthfulness is of the utmost importance, too many times the truth is embellished or stretched. I get that as writers we need the freedom to write but we should do so truthfully. We can certainly use adjectives to describe something as long as that something actually happened. Fiction is the only exception in my opinion. “The other day Tanya slipped in the cafeteria. Her feet left the ground and down she went, KABOOM! I felt terrible for her, I’m sure it left a huge black and blue bruise.” Just my opinion that’s all.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting.
      It’s so good to have more opinions
      Especially conflicting ones😍

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  5. You posit some questions we face on an almost daily level. When does embellishment end and lying begin since they essentially derive from the same source. One embellishes to make a story more interesting. One lies to make oneself seem more interesting. Both, on the surface, seem harmless. But are the fanciful details truly harmless fun or flat-out lies. I guess one could say it is a matter of credibility. How many details did this person add from imagination, and were they believed. How many people were laughing AT you for being covered in cream rather than commiserating WITH you for possibly being hurt in your fall.

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    1. I agree with you that there is a very fine line between exaggeration and lying.
      The challenge is to recognise it.

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  6. I believe embellishment of a story just to grab attention is akin to a lie. This is how our news channels create hype in their so called breaking news.

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    1. Their intention is not good so in this situation the exaggeration would indeed be akin to lying.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Love this post and all the comments!!! I agree it depends on intent and circumstances but it would be better to stick to facts without embellishments in my opinion. I know someone who has good intentions but every fact/story is a told with her own perception which is far from reality. I can’t trust anything she says without verifying the facts. I really enjoyed your example- at the expense of your fall. Sorry T!

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    1. And I agree with you: a person who exaggerates every time loses credibility.
      But in general, it is the circumstances and intention that determine the ethics.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🎁

      Like

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