Lies I Told, and How They Might Make Me a Better Writer

You’ve got to make the story believable. That’s advice every writer should know when they begin a story. Especially when writing fiction, there has to be an element of probable reality if you expect the reader to tag along through the first page, and say “Sure, this could happen.”

So, I’m taking some time on this blog to examine my ability to sell a good story, basically by recounting the times I lied and got away with it.

Example one, in grade school, all the kids had recess together and several younger girls would always annoy my friends and I. They would cheer too loudly while we were trying to play four square and it was disrupting to the quality of the game. I may have promised them wishes of piggy back rides or turns on the pogo sticks if they pulled their arms inside their jacket sleeves for 20 seconds. Hoping to look cool in front of the big kids, they willingly did so. Then, I would grab their sleeves and tie them together tightly in the form of a straight jacket. Trapped in their own spring clothes, the girls would ask me my name, and begin to run towards their classroom. “Henrietta,” I replied, then stood in line for kickball. When the girls told their teacher someone was picking on them and tied them up, all they could tell their teacher was “Henrietta did it.” I never got in trouble.

Sometimes my lies weren’t menacing in nature, sometimes they were wonderful, truth spinning adventures! For instance, in school we made our own pottery one day, baked it and got to paint it. Well, my clay pot didn’t make it home in one piece sadly. Instead of throwing it away, I aged it, making it look like a rare old artifact. I washed part of it mixing the clay and paint, wrapped it in a cloth I rolled around in the mud, and buried the whole thing about six inches deep in the garden. The next day when I was babysitting, I came up with the brilliant idea that my young friend and I go digging for artifacts in the yard and look for old clues about history. I positioned her near the broken pot pieces and gave her a garden spade shovel. I poked around at some weeds with the hoe, while she proceeded to find the cloth in the dirt and exclaim, “Look what I found!” Together we discerned it was most definitely a Native American pot from years ago and a treasured artifact she should keep, connecting herself to history. Years later, I was babysitting this same friend at her house, and she opened her dresser to get something and I saw the muddy cloth wrap in the corner of the drawer. I doubt she has it now, but for a few years it became a symbol of our adventure together in history.

In high school, two of my friends and I enrolled in a JEDI course. I’d like to tell you it’s exactly what you think it is, a class where you train to be a JEDI, but that would be a lie. It’s really just an acronym for something I can’t remember, but what it was was a class taught through TV monitors and microphones, meaning our teacher was in an entirely different school in another town, teaching the same advanced class on anthropology to four different schools. We could see the other students and teacher on the TV monitors and hear each other through a microphone sound system. Sometimes the lies we collaborated were small ones, like unplugging the microphones and miming to the TV monitor how we couldn’t hear anyone and go get lunch instead. One time, though, we devised a wonderful scheme to get out of doing some stupid computer game that tracked its points in chili peppers. We snuck into our classroom after school one day and selected the cds and booklet from its shelves. We placed the designated items into a manila envelope. We all hopped into the car, drove to the river, dropped a couple good rocks into the envelope, sealed it, and chucked it into the river! She sunk like a boulder! The next day, when it was time for class, we filed into the classroom, looked at the shelves and acted confused. Telling our teacher and the librarian, our program packets were nowhere to be found, the librarian looked very distraught and replied, “I don’t understand. Who would want to steal books from children?” What a shame. But, it’s ok, Teach, we’ll read quietly instead.

He knows how to write a good tale of good vs. evil.

How about you, fellow writers? Do you feel you can spin a good story? Or tell a harmless little lie? You never know, it might just make for a damn good story!

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12 responses

  1. I love that straitjacket story. You were an evil, little genius. 🙂

    1. Feel free to try it on your children if any family vacations get out of hand. 🙂

  2. I have a terrible time lying…maybe that’s why I usually stick to non-fiction!

    Wendy

    1. Oh I bet you’re holding out on us, you’ve never made one itsty, bitsy little lie?

  3. I love every one of these pranks! Your sense of humor is very similar to mine. I’d rate myself a pretty good storyteller, and if that includes a harmless lie or two, so be it.

    1. I competed in storytelling during Forensics in High School! It’s rather dear to my heart, as are fun-loving pranks!

  4. I love the straightjacket story! You probably got into trouble when you did those. 😉

    1. Nope, they never knew who Henrietta was. But I’m sure karma has done its toll, I am a youngest child, certainly picked on enough.

  5. These stories were wickedly delightful. Fiction writers are professional liars. 🙂

    Thank you for subscribing to my blog a few days ago. Keep up the “lying.”

    1. Thanks for stopping by Linda! I’ll try to amuse!

  6. Great article, Jess! I think having the ability to make a character lie about something makes a character believable: everyone is prone to mistakes and shortfalls, and any writer should keep that in mind with the characters she writes. And any reader could appreciate the uncomfortable position of being caught in a lie. I think it’s why I like George Costanza on “Seinfeld” so much.

    Your story about JEDI and playing tricks with this newfangled long-distance learning technology is hilarious because I had a similar experience. Instead of lying, however, me and my friends snuck up front to the “master computer” and switched the camera view of our classroom to a ridiculous video of a squirrel dancing to “gonads and lightning.” Sure it may seem confusing but if I explained what it is, I think you would be even more confused. The teacher was pissed but all the other students couldn’t stop laughing the rest of the class period. Totally worth it.

    1. Wish you could’ve come to the writing conference with me this weekend. Costanza came up as a character example a couple times!

      And I’m all for tricks in the multi-media classroom! And yours is pretty clever. Most we could do was monkey with the microphones, and throw our homework in the river, you know, kid stuff. lol.

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