Tag Archives | story tension

What a good old-fashioned lie can do for your story.

L is for Lies

The power of a lie.

In real life, we know lies can hurt, destroy, and basically ruin a relationship. We don’t like it when people lie to us. I train my children to tell the truth. But somehow, dishonesty creeps in. Face it. It’s a part of life.

We want honesty from our families our friends. And we want emotional honesty from our loved ones. And from the characters in our story.

Notice I said emotional honesty.

But any and all other kinds of dishonesty and lies – bring it on. And bring it good.

What can lies and dishonesty do for a story?

  • Lies create dramatic irony.
  • Lies in the form of hidden backstory create mystery.
  • Lies create conflict.
  • Lies can be the start of a moving character arc.
  • Lies set-up a powerful midpoint or Act III twist.
  • Lies create story tension, which can cover a multitude of other writing sins.

As you can see, I’m talking about more than one character lying to another character. Lies can be in the form of keeping truth from the reader. Or a character can be lying to themselves, in denial.


TWILIGHT and the dramatic irony created when the reader knew Edward was a vampire, but Bella didn’t.

CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers. I’m reading it right now and something big happened in the main character’s past to change her life. And I’m turning the pages as bits of backstory are dropped in because I want to know what happened.

THE LIAR SOCIETY by the Roecker sisters. The main character’s friend died and once we care, we turn the pages to find out how and why.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis. The main character wakes up fifty years too early after being cryogenically frozen. Let’s just say that big lies are revealed at the end that made a terrific twist!

HOLES by Louis Sachar. The main character is sentenced to Camp Green Lake for his prison term. Except the whole camp is a lie. This created incredible story tension.

I’m sure there are many others. Can you think of any? Do you use dishonesty and lies in your writing?

Comments { 26 }