Friday, 18 February 2011

Collaborative Lies

When was the last time you lied, either to yourself or a loved one?

Maybe it was something small and simple: Another biscuit or chocolate won’t hurt. Another cigarette. Another glass of wine. These are little white lies or fibs we can tell ourselves. Does anymore get hurt?

I have loved it when a small child learns to lie, watching them go through the emotion of seeing if they can get away with it.

A couple of years ago, one of my younger nieces, you know the sort, beautiful, clever, soft curls, butter wouldn’t melt etc…
We were at a posh garden centre in Ham, the ground underfoot was a sandy soil that stained anything it touched, orange. My white leather sandal had a large smudge of sandy soil on the same side my niece stood. I looked down and quite innocently asked:
‘How did that sand get on my shoe?’
My niece, looked, pointed and replied: ‘that lady over there did it!’
Of course it was impossible. And this poor woman, (who overhear every innocent word delivered so adoringly) & I collapsed in a heap of giggles. Both of us were incredibly amused yet neither of us could quite believe what we had just listened too. Was it a lie?

Of course my niece may not have been telling a fib, she may not have felt her shoe rub up against mine and she might have been looking for a feasible solution to the problem I had posed. So was her suggestion a collaboration or an aberration? She was only four at the time.

I know I’ve told lies, to protect people. Perhaps only shared half or part of the truth and avoided the painful part. But in all honesty I’m quite rubbish at lying under stressful circumstances, I find my face gives away my guilty secret so I’m never too ambitious in this deceitful art.

Occasionally I have to summon up huge reserves and go for it and all the time I’m praying I don’t get caught. After the event I feel quite sick with worry and I tell myself I’m not going to get caught in that situation again, because it’s an awful predicament to find yourself in. Especiallay if one party has sworn you to secrecy.

How many lies, white lies, fibs or whoppers do we tell each other and ourselves?
Why do we need to deny the truth? Why do we tell them? For good or ill?

What if a character tells a lie, what is the long term impact on everyone’s life? How do my characters cope with the fall out if and when the lie is revealed for what it is? Can these collaborations be helpful when writing a plot or developing a character? I believe that the more flawed a character is, the more opportunity a writer has to build tension and add friction to any situation.

Colin’s life is built on a big lie, an elaborate and complex web that started out quite small and then simply grew to an unmanageable size and became part of his everyday life. Eventually the situation forces him to face up to the problem and find a resolution one that may not please all parties involved but that’s what makes writing a novel so fascinating. I can place myself & the character in an impossible, and unlikely situation and then work my way out, either by telling lies or coming clean and sharing the truth.

Do we tell lies because we feel not everyone deserves to be in on the truth? Perhaps you want to keep them in the dark. Conceivably you may need to protect them from the truth?

Today I’ve been editing a chapter for my novel and my character lies, she has to, it’s vital in her situation and yet she never asks or needs to explore whether she has succeeded, she is doing it for love because the person she cares for needs to be reassured. So for me it’s fascinating to work through a scenario because I find exploring the idea of fabricating a lie: is a wonderful artifice for writing.

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