Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Throne of LIES!

Your character sits on a throne of lies!

Yup, you have been lied to by a character. Most likely more than one. Probably whole slews of them.

Now, to be fair, they most likely didn’t mean to lie, unless of course they were a Big Bad, in which case that’s sort of their job. But for the rest of them?  They were telling the truth—as they saw it.

Writers control what the reader sees by choosing a point of view character (or characters ;)) and the type of POV. Traditional third person gives the reader access to an over-view of the situation, and a far more global idea of what’s going on, but it can also put more distance between the reader and the character.  First person resolves the distance issue—you are RIGHT in their head after all—but does severely limit what the reader can see.

I write both types of POV depending on the story. The Lost Ancients series is first person, my other books, including The Warrior Wench space opera that will be out in 2016, are all third person.  I have tried switching POV, for both The Glass Gargoyle (going from first to third) and in The Warrior Wench (third to first) and both attempts were awful. Neither of them worked in the other format. Sometimes a story needs to have a certain feel to really be its best. Sometimes you need more lying going on.

Now, like the characters, an author isn’t really lying per se…okay, we are, but like the Big Bads it’s sort of our job. But for some stories, having that broad, overarching feel of a third person POV just doesn’t work.  We need some missing information, or misunderstood information, or just plain lies. We need an unreliable narrator.

Taryn doesn’t mean to lie, in her head, she’s not lying to anyone—except maybe a few tiny white lies.  But the fact is that we are in her head. We only see what she sees. Most importantly we only see things how she sees them.

She is, by definition, an unreliable narrator. This isn’t just true for her, pick up any first person book, and you’ll find the same issue going on. How you see an event will be different from how I see an event—even if we are standing right next to each other. So, your story would be different than my story.

Like all of us, whether we be living people, or figments of someone’s imagination, we don’t always see things how they are. A person’s past, or their perception of that past, is going to make a huge impact on their reactions to, and perceptions of, their current situation. And characters are people, right? They don't mean to sit on a throne of lies--they just end up that way ;).

So what about you and your favorite fictional characters?  Are they lying to you?  Did they do it well?


  1. Hi, I love the Ascendence Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen. It has a great unreliable narrator.

    1. OOOO- haven't read that one- I might need to check it out! Thanks!

      Marie- can't get on blogger

  2. I like the characters who tell the truth as they see it, even if their perception is misconstrued by their feelings or assumptions. I've read a few stories where people say the first-person character was actually lying, but they told their narration as if it were the truth, you just weren't sure whether or not to believe them. I prefer those who are truthful and wrong. :)

    1. True! I think as long as it's what the character sees is the truth it's all good. A first person character lying would be hard to pull off (unless the reader is in on it ;))