Let Them Lie — #CharacterBuilding

Last time, I meandered through a concept to deepen character development, the one where the poor schmuck’s always done something a certain way based on a faulty or misguided assumption (and aren’t we all poor schmucks at one point or another in our lives?).

This week, after taking some time to write a few shorts while waiting on book edits, I came across the stock photo above and found it massively appropriate for the topic.

We all deal with lies and—delusions of grandeur—every single day.

We lie. To those we love. To those we don’t. And we justify it. You know, even the little stuff, like when your significant other or friend asks if you like their new haircut. Or the dinner they cooked. Or their piece of art. Lie and make them smile, or tell the blatant truth and deal with the pouting for the rest of the day.

Or, if we’re skilled, we can sidestep the direct question by offering an indirect response: “Do you like your haircut/dinner/art? Well, that’s all that matters. Wanna go to the movies?”

Sometimes that diversion works. Sometimes not, if the person doing the asking is equally as skilled.

We are lied to. By those who love us (see the above paragraph) and by those who don’t (mainstream media, anyone?).

We lie to ourselves—this one may fall into the ‘delusion’ category. We have this image in our heads of who/what we are and then we ask or expect others to aid us in that delusion instead of being honest and looking at cold hard facts—about how we could make forward, positive change if we’d get our heads out of our derrieres.

Some of the epic lies/delusions we allow to take root in our heads: “I’m okay, I got this.” “He/she must really love me because they (fill in the blank here with some ridiculous act of selfishness on the part of the he/she).” “If I only had X, my life would be grand.” And on and on.

All based on feelings, not facts.

And some of us have that little “helper”—be he real or imaginary—who is all too eager to hand us our king’s scepter and keep us in la-la-land dancing a jig with our delusions and lies.

My grandmother, spunk she was, was once asked by a sweet young lady that age-old question with no good outcome—“Do these pants make me look fat?”

And Grandma prided herself on honesty—at least with others when she could one-up them; with herself, she was the Queen of Denial—so she told the girl the pants did, in fact, make her look fat.

I asked dearest grandmother if she thought her response was a little cruel. Grandma shrugged and said, “If she didn’t want to know, she shouldn’t have asked. And I think she needed to know.”

Well, alright then.

So, if you’re ever in the mood to fancy yourself an author (a delusion I’ve entertained a few times over the last few years) or you’re forced by a wicked English teacher into some piece of creative writing, let your characters lie and be lied to.

And especially let them lie to themselves. That makes them ultimately relatable. Because even though we may read to escape our reality, we still connect with those imaginary people on the page when they act just like us. And think just like us. Even if we’d never admit it to anyone else.

Watching the characters realize the errors in their thought processes, watching their delusions be illuminated, and watching them overcome those hurdles gives the rest of us poor schmucks a little hope.

Hope from imaginary characters with imaginary problems.

Sometimes fictional characters will cause us to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror and ask what we could do to change our own belief system. To face reality. To stop lying…

But be careful who you ask. Don’t ask yourself—you’ll just feed your psyche another line of bull. And on the other end of the spectrum are those brutally honest octogenarians—so attempt that audience only if you’re thick-skinned.

And if you’re the one-in-a-billion who doesn’t suffer from delusions of even the smallest grandeur, congratulations! Hold on a minute...

I’ll be right back with your scepter.

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog or revisit older post on my Archive page. Don't forget to come back on the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.