I love it when characters tell lies, thinking it will get them out of trouble, but instead they only dig themselves in deeper.
I love it when they intentionally use words with double meaning, or their body language conveys the exact opposite of what they’re saying.
I love it when they make sneaky deals, thinking they’ll outsmart the opposition who, of course, is doing the exact same thing to them.
But most of all, I love it when the characters lie to themselves.
We all tell ourselves little lies to get through the day. We want to make sense of a chaotic world, so we twist the facts just a little bit until they reinforce what we need to believe. Every observation is filtered, slanted, and spun by our own desires and delusions.
The start of the school year always forces me to confront my own favorite lie. All year long, I tell myself that I really am an organized person. If only I didn’t have to deal with carpooling, homework projects, and extra-curricular activities, I could really get things done. I will do better when summer comes and I don’t have all these darn appointments.
Then school lets out. Of course, I can’t accomplish anything with kids running through the house and a vacation to plan…and…and… It’s not me. It’s never me. I really am an organized person. I’ll get so much done once school starts.
Lying to ourselves is wonderful until we realize we’re wrong.
Then reality comes crashing down and chaos ensues.
Chaos can make a really great novel.
Writing lies into a story can be the difference between writing cardboard cutouts and creating characters that come alive. The lies our characters tell themselves reveal so much about who they are. Once the reader understands the character’s flawed belief system, they’ll anticipate what the character is going to do, and enjoy the novel even more.
These character-developing lies don’t have to be huge. Think back to all those classic I Love Lucy episodes. Lucy almost always got in trouble because of a single lie she told herself. She convinced herself that she could do anything if only Ricky wasn’t holding her back. Never mind that she didn’t know anything about wrapping candy, or making vitamin commercials, or towing a trailer. She always believed she could outsmart him and that little self-delusion drove every episode.
Which kind of lies are your favorite in novels? Do you intentionally write lies into your stories?