Conscious living requires a commitment to integrity and complete honesty, with ourselves and others. We all have told lies at some point. Usually this happens when we’ve failed to keep an agreement, whether at work, home, or with friends.
Unless you’re a sociopath, lying is a defense mechanism. We want to protect ourselves from being embarrassed or admitting fault. We want to protect someone’s feelings or have our cake and eat it. There is only one result, though – we create a barrier between ourselves and the person to whom we’ve lied. A second lie about the lie sits on top.
What does this have to do with writing?
Self-knowledge and integrity are wonderful things, but I don’t have a pithy connection to make for this one.
Instead, let’s do some practical work and play with some imaginary scenarios.
You can use your own experiences as a template, but if you have relevant scenes in your current work, that’s great too.
If you have a scene where a character is keeping a secret or withholding information, flip it around. What would happen if they told the truth in that moment? What is the lie? Is it major or picayune? Why is the character lying? To protect someone’s feelings, save face, or enhance their reputation? What would be lost if they told the truth?
On the other hand, consider a scene where a character is communicating honestly. Turn it around and ask what they would gain by lying. If you’re feeling bold, rewrite a scene in which every response given by one character either withholds information or is an outright lie. What’s their motivation? What imaginary game are they playing and why do they think they’re winning?