Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Really Good Liars

 by Charlotte Hinger

I once enjoyed watching a TV show called Lie to Me. It wasn't violent and the concept was fascinating if for no other reason that mystery writers are obsessed with investigation techniques. It featured a forensic psychologist who specialized in identifying people who are telling lies.

Some of the most amusing scenes in the show were when he was explaining some points to his colleagues and there were flashes of famous people in the news expressing similar emotions. Lying, cheating, dissembling, or just messing around with truthiness in general.

Will anyone ever forget Clinton shaking his finger and saying "I did not have sex with that woman?" Or Bush's famous declaration, "Mission Accomplished."

I'm always surprised at how easily some people lie. At a writer's conference years ago, I listened to an agent on a panel who was a first class liar. I knew this for a fact because he had just fleeced a friend of mine. But he was really, really good at convincing people that he was highly ethical, brilliantly connected in the publishing world and one swell person to have on their side. Oh, right.

When it comes to our own friends and family, it's amazing how often we simply know when something is amiss. A look in their eye. A smile that's forced. A too cheerful front.

Email and the internet makes it hard to conceal anything. I'm amazed at the emails that some politicians send. They are nailed for exchanges sent years ago and then deny having sent it in the first place.

Privacy of any kind no longer exists. Period. I look up a lot of stuff on the internet. I'm especially curious about conditions and diseases I need for concocting plots. Sure enough, I'm then quickly bombarded with solutions for a problem that the God of the Internet assumes I have. Sorry, Internet. I was just kidding.

It makes me a little nervous to look up guns and information about poisons when I'm considering plots. What if the FBI or whoever decides to investigate me? What if I look like a liar when I'm questioned?

I imagine I would look guilty whatever they asked.

All the information about body language makes it hard for mystery writer to fool our readers. It's hard enough to plant really clever red herrings. Nevertheless, since I like psychological suspense, I'm delighted when an author spins a really good tale. 

That's what we writers basically are, you know. Really good liars.


Thomas Kies said...

Charlotte, this is an outstanding post. Honestly, or dishonestly, we make stuff up. That's what we do. Tom

Charlotte Hinger said...

Thanks, Tom. I'm always bewildered when fans question if a story is the truth as though that's what we should be telling. I don't understand the writing process and what happens during the creation of a novel. Never have and never will.