Returning to the topic of integrity, let’s look at how withholding truth or outright lying breaks trust between your characters.
Often, we feel that revealing the truth will lead to a breakdown in trust. However, the opposite is often what happens: trust is broken when one party doesn’t tell the truth. Many people would rather their friends and loved ones be honest – even if the truth hurts – than lie. Regaining trust can take a herculean effort.
Are there places in your story where a character’s lie causes more harm than the truth could have? That’s a common trope in fiction, the lie that snowballs into a catastrophe.
If you’ve already looked for your hero’s motivation for lying, now consider how those lies – or withheld information – affect his or her relationships. Does your hero feel guilty for lying? Does he avoid the person he’s withheld information from? Does the lie get bigger over time as your protagonist tries to hide both the original truth and the lie? Do your supporting characters suspect something?
Consider how the keeping of the secret – rather than the secret itself – affects these relationships.
2 thoughts on “Conscious Writing: Breaking Trust”
I like the way you encourage fiction writers to really delve into the mind of their character, to consider the consequences of the lie, how the story plays out as a result of it.
Your last paragraph, “Consider how the keeping of the secret – rather than the secret itself – affects these relationships,” speaks to my own interest in creative nonfiction, specifically in writing about family secrets. For those who choose to write about what their families don’t want them to tell, the keeping of the secret up to the point of writing becomes central to the story.
Thanks for your comment! I like thoughtful and insightful fiction, so I’m trying to learn my own methods for diving as deep as possible into character and relationships.
Secrets are pernicious. My mom always made it clear that I wasn’t to tell anyone anything about our family. I didn’t think there was anything to tell, but even the caution was enough to make me hold back in friendships and relationships. Even though I didn’t have any secret, I was distrustful of people and sometimes a little paranoid. I can only imagine how it would be to hold in darker stuff.