Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Liar, Lunatic, or Loopy?

I'm obviously ONE of those, possibly two... Certainly not all three... misattributing inclinations aside.

I am a writer, so I KNOW my ABCs. I am a statistician, so I probably am okay at COUNTING. But apparently I don't know my days of the week... or something like that... It's not very surprising really. My friend Natalie used to tell me I was the smartest person she knew who couldn't tell left from right.

What am I talking about? Let me e'splain... SUNDAY I did a non-lettered blog because I was going to feature Lee Libro on Tuesday... As you can see from the side bar, I am featuring Lee on the 15th... until yesterday morning I was COMPLETELY convinced that TUESDAY was the 15th. I moved forward with my faulty thinking, and now I HAVE to figure out a day where one of my writer guests can double up with a letter.

So while I LIED to you, it wasn't intentional. And while I'm a lunatic, that isn't the whole story. But I am definitely 100% LOOPY.... so here we go... L. And why NOT talk about liars, lunatics and loopy people? As characters they have definite uses.


Lying isn't ACTUALLY something that comes naturally to me... it doesn't occur to me. Lies of omission maybe—there are some things I prefer to avoid dealing with, and keeping quiet works to that effect sometimes. My husband swears it's still a lie, and it is, but I figure there is a distinction, because if I am asked something straight up, I ALWAYS fess up.

So I hadn't thought about lying characters very much... manipulaters? Sure... story skewers, yeah, but liars? HOW LIBERATING! It was Elizabeth who opened my eyes... Her advice?  All the suspects in a mystery should tell at least one lie, she said. BRILLIANT! What makes someone look more suspicious than being caught in a lie? NOTHING! Yet there are a LOT of reasonable reasons to lie. A person might be embarrassed about something. They might be protecting someone. They might be like me and just sometimes think it is easier to not say anything because they aren't prepared for the can of worms it would open.

Yes, mysteries definitely need some liars.


Some people just perceive things wrong... they make faulty assumptions, or their working vision of how the world works is wrong. I LOVE characters who are living under a faulty understanding of the world. I think the most brilliant portrayal of that is Humbert Humbert of Lolita. He is a pedophile... a child molester. Yet he presents his helpless state as if he really believes he can't help himself. He is so horrible, but he hasn't a clue—it is amazing writing. And in the end, he finally has some inkling of the devastation he's caused... sure, he's feeling sorry for himself, but you get the idea his pain includes some self-realization that hurts a lot.

I think other psychiatric disorders are equally interesting. The books I've read that include dementia are often BRILLIANT. Depression is depressing, of course, but if there is a working through of something, it is also profound. Likewise with addiction. I think crazy people are among my character favorites...


You know what REALLY bugs me? A book where NONE of the characters have a sense of humor. I don't care HOW DARK the book, if the book is devoid of smart alecs, goof balls, or ridiculous shenanigans of any sort, chances are, it will not be nearly as dear to me as a book which allows a chuckle now and then to release the tension.

It's probably because in real life people who take themselves too seriously wear on me. They make me tired. I have some I love (my mother, for instance) but they are SO HARD to spend much time with. So likewise, in books, I'd like either a few relief characters, or else a humorous angle to the personality of the MC.

Luscious Lars

Lovely Lucius...


Not enough hours! said...

Elementary, dear Tart.

Just make 15th, "N for Nudist Approved", and let LL blog as planned. I know you would have had great things planned for the letter, but ....

Or if the blogger scheduled for the 29th is a Mystery Writer, you can make it Y for Why?

And I too hate lying- it is one of the hardest things to do, even if it would sometimes make life a bit easier.

Sophia said...

Liars and lunatics make for fun characters. I think that's because when you have an obvious flaw like that there's more incentive to give the character depth so they aren't just 'the liar' or 'the lunatic'. Otherwise you could end up with an untrustworthy unlikable character on one hand and one lacking a purpose and motivation on the other and nobody wants that.
I really want to write *something* with an unreliable narrator along the lines of Browning's Porphyria's lover. Unique (and so obviously flawed) perspectives presented as truth are always interesting to read.
- Sophia.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Very cool post. I completely agree with you about liars. I especially love when the reader knows the truth to everything but the protagonist doesn't. Frustrating, but a page turner! :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Lying CAN be fun! Writers make wonderful liars and the perfect outlet for it is mystery writing. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Watery Tart said...

Natasha-teehee Nudist Approved... I will have to take that one into serious consideration! I'll figure it out, but this may be my best option!

Sophia-it's TRUE that to write them well, you need to have some complexity--I've seen some campy liars, which if the REST of the characters are flushed out, might be okay, but certainly some effort needs to go into making them believable.

AA: I love those, too! I CAN though, get really mad at the protag, if they are too slow to figure it out. On the other hand, I tend to make my characters a little too smart on first draft.. need some obstacles to figuring it out!

Elizabeth-yes, FAR better to lie on the page than to your friends and family, ne?

B. Miller said...

Grrr... my comment didn't post! Just wanted to say thanks for this entry, it was wonderful. I love the idea of making each suspect in a mystery tell a lie. Nice touch!

Watery Tart said...

B. Teehee! I have a brilliant mentor on this mystery stuff (there are several around here, actually, but Elizabeth has been super helpful)

Sugar said...

I don't really have anything to add..just wanted to check out some manstuffs :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Fun post! You gotta love a post when liars and lunatics are invloved! :-)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Great advice about the mystery characters...I'll take a look at make sure I have at least one lunatic. What's witht he Lucius picture...I don't remember that one on my daughter's Harry Potter poster! LOL.

Watery Tart said...

*giggles at Sugar*

Thank you, Shannon!

Raquel, you clearly need to subscribe to Playwitch *shifty* Oh, the things that can happen when a Tart falls in love with the Potterverse...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wrong day of the week - that sounds like me.
And I made there were characters with a sense of humor in my book. Otherwise, it makes for some very dry reading.

Watery Tart said...

Alex-so relieved I'm not alone! I just lose details from time to time. I'm relieved in my work life--have a conference in early May with 3 presentations that all need preparing, and an extra two days is helpful, but SHEESH *facepalms* Oh well.

And yes--humor is ESSENTIAL. I actually can live with a humored AUTHOR and the character not getting it, but freaking SOMEBODY needs a sense of humor, or you get... Twilight.

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

One thing I hate is reading a book where the premise of the book is based on one lie, whether intentional or not. There's nothing more frustrating to know that everything could've been solved if it weren't for that one lie, or that one misunderstanding. Of course then, there would never have been a story, but I need more than just a lie to keep it going. Great post!

Watery Tart said...

Kierah-very interesting point--I think I've read some of those, and I think I agree with you--at least I agree if it requires characters to be stupid not to figure it out. It needs to be a darned ELABORATE lie, but I am a giant fan of conspiracy stuff, and THAT is based on a lie... just more complicated.

I think though, aside from conspiracy theory... My daughter had to read SPEAK before starting her Freshman year, and that is based on a girl keeping a HORRIBLE secret (a lie of omission) and at the end the reader finally understands her motivation, and though I haven't read it, the story sounds VERY compelling.

Marjorie said...

It's very strange that you should post something about mental disorders today. I totaly think that someone in my family may have a personality disorder. I swear the life story of a person close to the person I think has the personality disorder would make a really compelling book. IF I were able to get all the details and IF I were able to write such a thing with making said mental person hate me forever I might actually do it.

Ellie said...

You nailed it; the most interesting things to include in a book are the quirks. It gives it a
reality; don't we all know some of these people?!
I do~ There is nothing wrong with loopy, liars
have there reasons, it is when it is habitual
there are problems. Lunatics...allure us, I think of Phantom of the Opera. Luscious Liars...nice
eye candy with a golden tongue. Fun post!
(Speak was made into a movie) ( I know someone with personality disorder-she is an emotional vampire) Be careful~

Watery Tart said...

Marjorie-I've got a FAMILY story with some of those things (not mental illness in this case, but definite flaws that caused some horrible things). It won't be written until the people who would be hurt most are gone, but it WILL be written.

Ellie-Oooh! Phantom of the Opera is a nice example! So scary and appealing at the same time. Thank you!!!

Wanda said...

All good things to include in a great read.