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August 23, 2012

Toning Down the Truth

Sometimes You Have to Lie to Make Your Writing Believable

My first book was published in April, and in late May I got emails from a few readers. Two of them said how much they loved the book, but they found it difficult to believe that six-year-old kids would have been smoking. Everything else they seemed to buy into. Bought into the gruesome murders, the crime scenes that aren’t perfect, and a host of other things. But those kids…

The funny thing is, the part about the kids smoking was true. As I laughed, and thought about how to handle such things in the future, I was reminded of a story about one of the dogs on our sanctuary.


Some people and some dogs—I guess some of everything—just won’t be contained. No matter what you do, they’re going to find a way to get what they want.

My dog, Biscotti, a mutt we picked up off the side of the road, is such a dog. She’s the reason I had to redo the fencing on six acres of our property. I had spent a fortune on nice 4 x 4 posts with 1 x 6 corral-board fencing that completely enclosed the front part of the property. It was doing a fine job. None of the dogs or the pigs could get out.

And then came trouble.

Biscotti, contortionist dog


Biscotti quickly found a way to squeeze through the gap in the top rail of corral board. The problem was, Biscotti didn’t just escape, she caused trouble. She ransacked garbage in the neighborhood. She brought home things from people’s garages. And she started chasing cats.

So we dug into what little savings we had, and ordered a whole bunch of hog panel to nail to the fence. This amounted to several thousand feet of hog panel, which cost more than a few bucks. I was confident though, that our problem was resolved. No way Biscotti was getting out now. The fence was 5 feet high and the holes in it were only 2” x 4” in the bottom and 6” x 6” further up.

Problem Solved

Everything worked great. We won. Biscotti was contained—until she decided not to be. One day, while my wife and I were working in the garden, Biscotti decided to join us. Have a look!

Keep in mind that she might not look big next to the Great Dane and that behemoth of a Boxer mix standing by her, but Biscotti weighed 57 pounds in this picture.

Now, the whole point is this—everyone who saw Biscotti in person, and looked at that fence, swore up and down that there was no way that dog could get through that hole. They almost didn’t believe their eyes when she did it. And she used to do it at will, all day, any time she wanted out.

 So What Does This Have to do With Writing?

When you write a book, you don’t have the luxury of Biscotti being there to show your readers that what you’re telling them is true. You have to make it believable, even if it means toning down the truth. So the next time I’m tempted to tell a story about six-year olds smoking, I think I’ll make them eight, or even nine.


Ciao, and thanks for listening,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 41 loving “friends.”

Have you ever read a book, or seen a movie where you thought—no way that happened?

4 Responses to “Toning Down the Truth”

  1. Oh my gosh. I think I had Biscotti’s brother from another mother. Chief was a notorious escape artist. He would scale five foot tall fences or sail over them if he got a running start.

    He was good though. When I called him to come inside he’d slyly run to the opposite side of the property and nonchalantly appear with a look that said: “Oh, were you calling me? I didn’t hear you.”

    Biscotti was one cool dog. I’ll bet you have a million stories about her.

  2. Maria: Yeah, they can give you those looks! Amazing the communications skills dogs have when they want to, and how deaf they can be when they don’t. And yes, Biscotti is still making stories. She’s a character. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Jim,

    How did you have the camera ready so quick? Looks like you knew she was going to escape. Goes to show how smart they are, when they want to be.

  4. No, by that time, Biscotti was escaping at will. I should have taken more videos of her.

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