The Art of Lying (Advice from a Professional Liar–uhhh, I mean, Writer)

Oh, what a tangled web we weave….

Lying. The heart of any great writer’s skill. Or “persuasion,” if you want to paint a slightly sexier face on it. (But let’s be honest, that flawless contouring trick you learned on YouTube isn’t fooling anyone, Karen.)

We learn when we’re young that lying is wrong, even as the ones who teach us that lesson boldly lie to our faces. The world is your oyster. You can be anything you want to be. Be yourself, and people will love you.

When you’re in court, you should tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But the truth is, Dr. House had it right. Everybody lies. Some people’s lies just sound nicer than others. As writers, we call this Fiction.

Personally, I’m a big fan of lying to uncover, discover or enhance the truth. Heroes who go undercover to learn the secret plots of truly evil people. Telling your parents you’re staying at a friend’s house, when really you both sneak out and go on midnight adventures which (in retrospect) will both terrify and thrill you for the rest of your life. Telling someone you’ll love them forever, when really you only love them right now.

Lies can cause problems, sure. But so can the truth. I’m sure we can all agree that a well-placed lie can soothe the pain of a sharp-truthed comment.

“No, I meant you looked ‘phat.’ With a ‘ph.’ Not the other one.”

Lies can help you take back the terrible things you’ve said. Sort of.

“Man that Sarah is the WOR–Oh hiiiiii Sarah, we were just talking about this girl in our math class we hate. Who is also named Sarah. Yeah, she’s a sneaky, soft-walking son of a….”

Lies can make a terrible situation funny.

“Sorry your dog died, Timmy. But man, think of it like this: Old Bandit can chase as many raccoons as he wants in heaven now, cause I betcha his fourth leg done grown back now.”

Lies can even help you achieve things you might never have tried without them.

“That doesn’t look so hard.”

“Everyone’s first draft is absolute crap.”

“Nobody’s even going to notice if I fail.”

“Who cares if I haven’t been in the sun for a year? I am going to ROCK this bikini!”

“I’ll bet it’ll look really cool if I….”

Just make sure you don’t turn the lies on yourself too often, and convince yourself you’re something you’re not. Never lie to hurt someone, or manipulate them into hurting themselves. And be careful how you use your power of persuesion in real life. Make sure you’re only arguing for something you really want, something you’re willing to live with. And always, always be willing to back it up, if you get caught.

“I used to be a professional singer. Oh…you want to hear me sing? Okay, um….” *Clears throat, busts into glorious cacophony of awful noise*

“I’m a size 8.” *Stares blankly, twitching*

“Sure, I’d love to go out with you again. Except, I’m going out of town next week. For…a year. But yeah totally call me in 2016!”

“Yeah, I’m totally training to run a 5K. For…charity. Oh, you’re organizing a run for kids with cancer? Um…sure, I can be ready in two weeks. Yeah!” Then DO it.

“I’m telling stories to make the world a better place. …But, I wouldn’t mind being famous, if that was a side-effect.” (Because let’s be honest.)

Sometimes, lies can be aspirational. Like self-fulfilling prophecies (and hey, there’s another great word for something totally made up) Lies can become the truth.

“I can do this!”

“Someday, I’m going to look back on this humiliating experience and laugh.”

“Tomorrow, I’m going to try harder.”

“If I build a platform, the fans will come.”

“If I practice writing, even if it’s crap now, I will become a better writer.”

“Even though people keep telling me this is impossible, I think it can be done. So I’m going to do it.”

As Sherlock Holmes (famously and fictitiously) said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

So I say we go out there and lie, my fellows. Fib fantastically. Twist those words creatively, and positively, and with the motive of making truth out of thin air.