False document

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A false document is a literary technique employed to create verisimilitude in a work of fiction. By inventing and inserting documents that appear to be factual, an author tries to create a sense of authenticity beyond the normal and expected suspension of disbelief for a work of art. The goal of a false document is to fool an audience into thinking that what is being presented is actually a fact.

In practice, false document effects can be achieved in many ways, including use of faked police reports, newspaper articles, bibliographical references, documentary footage or using the legal names of performers or writers in a fictional context. The effect can be extended outside of the confines of a text by supplementary material such as badges, I.D. cards, diaries, letters or other artifacts.

By intentionally blurring boundaries between fiction and fact, false documents present complex and perhaps insoluble ethical questions. In some cases, the difference between a great artistic achievement and a stunning forgery is slim. Sometimes the false document technique can be the subject of a work instead of its technique, though these two approaches are not mutually exclusive as many texts which engage falseness do so both on the literal and the thematic level.

A false document is usually created simply as an artistic exercise, but occasionally is promoted in conjunction with a criminal enterprise like fraud, forgery, or a confidence game. A false document should not be confused with a mockumentary, an admittedly fictional film presented in the manner of a documentary.

Contents

Origin of the false document technique

One of the earliest examples of the technique is the 16th century chivalric romance Amadis of Gaul (1508, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo).

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