Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lies People Tell

by Lisa Hughey

In my personal life, I hate lies. With a passion that borders on obsessive. I strive to be as honest (without being cruel) as possible in my dealings with people. Of course there are the random small omissions usually in the quest to spare someone’s feelings that could be considered lies but even those I try to avoid. I don’t like to lie and I absolutely hate being lied to.

I think that’s why in my fictional life I’m so drawn to the world of espionage. The world of spies is built on lies. Exploring characters whose ordinary world is predicated by lies and half-truths is particularly fascinating to me. Writing about characters with a moral compass that excludes veracity provides a backdrop for countless twists in plot and character exposition. The character has a code of justice and so their motivations are inherently true. Yet finding the truth among the lies is a maze-like experience for both the reader and the author.


Photo courtesy of ilovememphis on Flickr

Sometimes the author is just as surprised by the things the character is hiding. The piecing together of the past and the reactions to the events in the story are less than straightforward and the mental puzzle of determining why a character behaves in a certain manner adds another layer to a likely complicated espionage plot.

Throw in a villain with his or her own set of lies and it just gets more interesting. My villains of choice tend to be Russian. There is no underlying meaning or ill-will toward Russian people, it’s just that the documented lines of misdirection, misinformation, and outright lies between the Russian and American espionage community is truly gripping.

American Intelligence has buildings full of people devoted to analyzing and deciphering bits of information collected from a variety of sources and putting together a logical explanation of events. They have to sift through hours of communication intelligence, human intelligence (that would be people sources), rumors, innuendoes, and misinformation to distill the information down to usable intelligence. In my mind, when you consider how much information is out there, it’s a miracle that any intelligence findings are on the mark.

For research, I’ve read some riveting and completely fantastical plots that are so crazy, if you read them in a book, you’d throw it across the room and consider the story implausible. That’s part of what makes writing about lies so much fun and in the end the hero and heroine always find their way to the truth.



Sophie Littlefield said...

i am so jealous of your ability to concoct a plot that leaves people guessing, and espionage is the perfect element for that. I enjoy a book where the author keeps me in suspense and I feel like I have to keep reading faster and faster to get to the answer. Peter Abrams has that ability too, one of the reasons I love his books.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Love this! Thanks for bringing us back to that inexorable link between fiction and lying convincingly ;-)

Mysti said...

Or at least inch closer to it (the truth)! I'm still at the "throw a bunch of stuff in there and see what sticks" stage, plotwise. Hiding it from the reader, well, we'll see. Hats off to you for having that wired already!!!!

For me, in real life, even the smallest realization/epiphany can mean a lot. Sorting out the lies we grew up with, the lies we tell ourselves, it's a wonder we find any truth at all!

Rachael Herron said...

I love that truth in real life sometimes masquerades as the biggest lies of all.... Great post. xo

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