I don't normally do this, but I have to pass on a joke I got in an e-mail from my grandmother. Here goes:
Brian invited his mother over for dinner. During the course of the meal, Brian's mother couldn't help but notice how beautiful Brian's roommate, Jennifer, was. Brian's Mom had long been suspicious of a relationship between Brian and Jennifer, and this had only made her more curious.
Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between Brian and Jennifer than met the eye.
Reading his mom's thoughts, Brian volunteered, "I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you Jennifer and I are just roommates."
About a week later, Jennifer came to Brian saying, "Ever since your mother came to dinner, I've been unable to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don't suppose she took it, do you?"
Brian said, "Well, I doubt it, but I'll send her an e-mail just to be sure."
So he sat down and wrote:
I'm not saying that you "did" take the gravy ladle from the house, I'm not saying that you "did not" take the gravy ladle. But the fact remains that one has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.
Several days later, Brian received an email back from his mother that read:
I'm not saying that you "do" sleep with Jennifer, I'm not saying that you "do not" sleep with Jennifer. But the fact remains that if Jennifer is sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the gravy ladle by now.
Hehe. I laughed really loud.
But something struck me; how quick are we to believe that we are carrying off a lie? And how transparent are we actually?
The really does relate to writing.
How often do we see a main character (good and bad) lie to someone as a plot device?
And how often is that lie as transparent as a newly Windexed sliding door?
But somehow, whoever the MC is lying to, believes it and Ta-da!! you have conflict!
But it's not real conflict. Why? Because there's one person you haven't fooled. That's right, the reader.
Now, cliches abound everywhere, but for the moment I'm going to pick on romance (no offense, I write it too.:)) How many of us have read the romance where the heroine decide the hero would be better off without him and despite the fact that yesterday they had a rock solid relationship of trust and love, today she tearfully whispers, "I don't love you anymore." The hero immediately believes her, leaves with his shattered heart in tow, and we spend the rest of the book trying to get them back together again.
Except that the way she lies to him is so transparent even a child could spot it. And the hero is so gullible she probably could have added, "Oh, and your tennies are untied," and the hero would have looked down at his hip boots that have no laces at all and said, "Huh?"
Doesn't it just make you roll your eyes and want to throw your book across the room?!?!?
On the other hand, when lies are well done, they can be stunning/devastating/suicidal/earth shaking . . . you get the idea. But you have to have so many elements to make a lie good. You have to have a justifiable reason for lying, you have to lie in such a way that it is understandable that the person being lied to would believe them, and the person being lied to must have some justification for believing the lie. Without those elements, lies fall flat on their faces.
I'll give you an example. I am reading "The Surgeon," by Tess Gerritsen (new author of the week, yea! She writes horrifying medical thrillers. Not for the weak of stomach.) Quick sum up, we have an emotionally fragile rape victim who is now being targeted by a killer. She is slowly falling in love with one of the cops in the investigation. The cop's partner has a crush on this guy, gets jealous, and reports her partner to the supervisor. The cop gets send on an out of town assignment to give him some distance from the victim. Before he is allowed to explain himself to his new love, the jealous female partner find her first. Jealous partner insinuates to victim paramour that male cop just doesn't want to see her. Victim is shattered and doubts her feelings.
Why does this work? First, the female cop has a reason to tell the lie. She's jealous, but powerless to keep the two lovers from having feelings for each other. All she can do is plant discord. Second, she lies well. She doesn't out and say, he doesn't care for you, she simply insinuates that leaving town was his choice and that if he wanted to call her, he would have. And thirdly, she has a lot of reasons to believe it. It's the first guy she's let into her life since the rape, she's been very scared and protectiveness is often mistaken for affection, and there was some alcohol involved. Also, it was just after their first night together--they didn't have some rock-solid love going on. It was a timid, tentative first time.
And you totally ache for them! No! Don't believe it! She's conning you! Stupid cop, disobey order and call her and explain! Don't let this happen.
Also (and I personally think this is important) this lie and the drama it creates are far from the center of the story. The plot is not driven by a lie--it's only a side plot.
So how about you? Example of lies you love and lies you love to hate in literature? Movies? You family . . . no wait, we don't want to hear about your family.