A writer’s mission is to tell his version of the truth. In order to tell the truth though, sometimes we have to spin a few lies. Tricksy, aren’t I?
Acceptable Lie #1: Red Herrings
Red Herrings are a beautiful thing if done correctly. They’re all about subtle and detailed misdirection, sort of like a magic trick, to make the reader think they’re seeing one thing when really three other things are falling into place just out of sight. The important thing is to avoid cheese factor. Cheese leads to an obvious “the butler did it” kind of scenario. Make the clues plausible and try to keep them at least somewhat original. But don’t forget to have fun with it! If it’s not fun to write, it’s probably not fun to read.
For more on this concept, check out: http://thewritepractice.com/red-herring/
Acceptable Lie #2: Unreliable Narrators
Enter stage left, the unreliable narrator. An unreliable narrator (like Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower or the narrator in The Fall of the House of Usher) is meant to draw the reader into a false sense of security. Who doesn’t trust a charismatic narrator? It’s like trusting a tour guide as he leads you around a museum you know nothing about.
But as the crumbs start to fall, they should leave a trail ending at the ultimate question: Is this person reliable? How does his distorted view reflect on events and characters? Is any narrator truly reliable or is everyone’s “truth” influenced by their perception of the world? Case in point, an unreliable narrator can be used to convey larger truths about our world.
Acceptable Lie #3: Lying to Your Characters
Most characters are driven to act (at least in part) by the lies they tell themselves. It’s the ultimate “if-then” statement. “If I do this then…I’ll finally be happy…I’ll be a hero…She’ll fall in love with me…I’ll get what I deserve”, etc. This applies to both villains and heroes alike. I adore this concept. It’s been incredibly helpful while shaping my own characters, like Marley Emmons and Rumpelstiltskin. It’s helped me answer the question, what would this character do in this situation that would simultaneously advance the plot?
Ex: Marley believes it is her against the world. In order to get away from her father, she needs resources. She believes if she steals enough money she can finally get away. This belief leads her to steal from Rumpelstiltskin, and launches the main story arc. Her belief is tested when Holden shows genuine concern for her wellbeing.
For more on this concept, visit: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/character-arcs-2/