Ever seen Dogma? Remember that part about how if God is ever proven wrong, the entire universe goes all kaboom and creation is uncreated? Replace “God” with “author” and you get the same result; if any of your narrative contradicts any other part of your narrative, everything dies and you fail. Yea, no, there’s no candy-coated way to say it. It’s a major, unforgivable writer sin up that your loyal readers may never forgive. That’s why every proud pen-holder knows to be extra diligent when it comes to continuity and canon and all those happy things that make a story cohesive. To do otherwise leads to dire effects (nonsensical story points, unsuspended disbelief) that lead a book to become kindling.
But this right here isn’t about mistakes. This is about lies.
Sometimes, writers get lazy and decide to throw in a plot twists for shoots and giggles but, because they don’t want to actually put the effort in, just throw in a few fibs to make it fly. Tsk. Tsk. The moment you do that, trust is dragged out back and beaten with sticks.
What do you mean?
I’m glad you asked that. Let’s say Jane is preggars and you want the reader to think Jack is the baby daddy. The lie would happen if you placed that “fact” in the narrative.
Jack was the father.
Seems innocuous, right? Well, no. With it in the narrative – the “fact” based portion of your story – Jack being the daddy is now canon. To later reveal that John is the father in a shocking Maury moment, is a big ol’ slap in the face to fans that suddenly can’t trust anything you put in front of them. Now try:
“Jack’s the father.”
See the quotes that denote dialogue? That’s where you can lie your booty off and never face wrathful uberfans who feel painfully betrayed. Why? People lie, cheat and steal all the time and what are your characters but people you create? Use that.
You can also misdirect, omit and just be as plain sneaky as you desire, as long as you never cross that line.
Your narrative is Gospel Truth. If there’s any part not kosher, it’ll all fall apart and your whole shiny universe that you put so much work into will be for naught. Don’t waste the pen and paper.
Be like these smarticle-filled storytellers…
Near the end of this slice and dice bloodbath, tabloid journalist-turned-author Gale Weathers (minus the nice streaks) stumbles upon a body. After a quick look, she (in her frightened mindset) calls him dead and moves on. But guess what!? He wasn’t really dead. This could’ve been a story-killing moment, but the declaration of death wasn’t in the narrative; it was in the dialogue. Gale, being human and prone to mistakes, simply erred when she played doctor and called time of death. In doing so, we got that twist ending Wes & Co. wanted so bad to give us.
AKA my current celluloid obsession. For so many reasons.
Okay, so basically there’s this uberugly t-rex hybrid thingie running around the park eating people. Jason Voorhees would tilt his hockey mask to her. A major point of the movie is no one seems to know what DNA they mixed with Rexie to create this abomination (though viewers may know from the get go but, y’know) so that when it’s really awkward they can finally put two and two together. When asked, the only answer given is “that’s classified” so there’s not actually any lies involved. It is classified. Jurassic World gave us the (not-so-surprising) twist without setting any pants on fire.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
When the little tramp proves better than the Sea Witch thought, Ursula takes matters into her own tentacles. And, as her actions don’t undo the legal, binding and completely unbreakable – even for Triton – contract. The daughter of the great Sea King, no matter what she claimed, could’ve made a liar out of Ursula. By simply not mentioning that she could or could not step in to stop Ariel from kissing her prince, Disney was able to create that perfect ending where Ursula claims the crown and becomes the queen of all the oceans. What do you mean there’s more? You must be delusional. Anyway, feel free to keep secrets. What they don’t know won’t hurt you.
Don’t ever give a reader a reason to doubt your story. Manipulation and secrets and (character) mistakes are cool and needed for some of those perfect twists, turns and surprises but if you just flat out lie, I’ll be the first to tell you you suck.
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