Usefulness of lies in mysteries: . . .although you were told lying isn’t a good thing, it sure can give a story and the characters, depth and ultimately, give readers situations and people that they relate to. The fun thing as a writer is we get to play with all of those lies and see how we can slide them into our story where they are going to have the greatest effect.
I know that you were told that lies are a bad thing but I’d like to tell you differently. Now don’t go and tell your wife, mother, friend, sibling, boss… that I said it was okay not to tell the truth! In some cases, though, lying can be dynamite… just maybe not so much in real life (although it sure can start some fireworks).
What I’m trying to say is that lying is great in stories, especially in mysteries, thrillers, suspense… It’s a great way to build a story. A lie can really hint at the type of person the character is and/or how they handle being in certain situations. Lies help to give that misdirect and mystery as to why the character would do that. Is anyone in the story going to figure out that lie? How will it affect the situation? The story?
As you read through the list, what type of person do you think of when you see or hear this type of lie? We all know someone who epitomizes each type of lie and we might even be guilty of one or two of them ourselves.
So let’s look at the type of lies:
- ‘The Little White’ Lie – everyone is familiar with this one. I guess this means it isn’t a big lie? I’m not sure what the difference is – a lie is a lie, right? In a story, it immediately puts you in that place of why did the character need to tell that ‘little white lie’? What are they avoiding? Or making happen?
- ‘Withholding the Truth’ Lie – The person doesn’t tell someone all of the information. i.e. the person mentions s/he bought a new shirt just not that it cost $400. So in a story what would that tell you about the character? About the relationship they have with the other person?
- ‘I’m Getting Even’ Lie – this one is often about revenge. The person acts like ‘no, it’s not a problem’ while inside they are boiling mad. This can be used in many ways but really can lend to the story when you have someone plotting revenge while acting like everything is okay. This can be used as a great misdirect in a story.
- ‘I Don’t Want to Get In Trouble’ Lie – this one is plain and simple to save one’s own butt. So what type of character do you think would use this lie? Or in what type of situations?
- ‘How People See Me’ Lie – This one is about trying to change people’s perception or potential perception of themselves.So they will either lie to cover up a mistake they did so they don’t look bad or they will lie to take credit for something they didn’t do. So is it always sleazy people who do this? Or someone who wants change in their life? Someone desperate? Spur of the moment decision?
So although you were told lying isn’t a good thing, it sure can give a story and the characters, depth and ultimately, give readers situations and people that they relate to. The fun thing as a writer is we get to play with all of those lies and see how we can slide them into our story where they are going to have the greatest effect.
In my latest novel, Deadly Ties (available for Pre-Order, publish date is May 17, 2016) I use several of these types of lies to build my story. I love using them because they lend nicely to the many twists and turns in my novels and keep the reader guessing until the end.
How do you use lies in your novels?