Do Writers Play an Imitation Game with the Truth?

Do writers sometimes embellish or omit facts to make true stories more interesting and if they do, is this acceptable?

Bletchley Park was among the many sights we visited when we lived in England. We spent the better part of a day there and I must confess, although I love history and did the Jack the Ripper walking tour in London twice, not being familiar with the story of Alan Turing and how he helped to decipher the messages sent by the Germans during WWII, I found the excursion rather boring.

We saw the Enigma machine which had been captured from the Germans in WWII and wandered in and out of a couple of the little huts that had been used during the war by people intercepting and attempting to decode the enemy’s messages. There were dozens of these huts as I recall and most of them were in very poor condition evidentially abandoned when the war ended. The edifice of the main building (see the post image) struck me as being a bit of an architectural curiosity and that is about all that stands out in my mind about that day. Well, that and the kids and I sitting in the car bored while my husband eagerly explored the grounds a bit further.

Since then I’ve learned more about the significance of this place and the people who worked there and do regret that I didn’t make more of an effort to savour the moment. But it really wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when we went to the cinema to see The Imitation Game that I learned the whole story, or well, perhaps the whole story of Hollywood’s version.

In The Imitation Game, conflict was created between characters where, apparently, it didn’t actually exist. I won’t go into great detail and spoil things if you haven’t seen the movie and would like to but basically, according to the articles that I will link to at the bottom of this post, the screenplay embellished some facts and left out some others presumably for the sake of entertainment.

This raises many questions in my mind:

  • Do writers have a responsibility to accurately depict historical events?
  • Is it acceptable to embellish and omit when it makes a true story more entertaining?
  • Is it more important to maintain the interest of an audience than to accurately portray every last details in a story?
  • Is it acceptable to embellish and omit minor points in a true story if that helps to keep your audience interested so that they can appreciate the main story, or in this case, the history lesson?

Much like the movie Titanic we know how it ends more or less, but the movie is very well done and I would encourage you to see it if you get the chance.

For More Information

How Accurate Is The Imitation Game?
An Alan Turing expert watches the “The Imitation Game” trailer
The Imitation Game: inventing a new slander to insult Alan Turing
COMPUTING MACHINERY AND INTELLIGENCE By A. M. Turing
Images of Bletchley Park, Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons