Far from being the road straight to hell, lies in fiction are an invaluable tool for creating both external and internal conflict. Untruths are also a great vehicle for "showing, not telling" who your characters really are at heart. How they lie (blush, stammer, or look you straight in the eye), and the lies they choose to tell (tall tales, or deceitful rumors calculated to cause the most possible harm) can deliver more impact to your plot than pages and pages of truthful--and dull--good behavior.
While many genres routinely depend upon lies to provide the bulk and basis of the story, e.g.:
- Mystery fiction ("Wasn't me, guv.").
- Thrillers ("Tell them you are a visiting anthropologist from Bulgaria.").
- Romance ("I hate him!")
- Establish tension: Will the liar be found out?
- Create sympathy: But he did it for his family! I.e., when a "good" character tells a lie to serve a higher purpose, we'll be desperate for him to get away with it.
- Story justice. Just as much as we want our hero's lie to save the day, we also want "bad" characters to get their comeuppance. It feels good when villains and antagonists are found out as the evil-doers we know they are--and then receive their due punishment.
- Plot development. Characters who lie will do anything to keep from being discovered. Characters in search of the truth will risk all to reach their goal. Put the two together and your scenes will practically write themselves.
- Motivation, mission, and revenge. Characters who have been lied to won't be happy campers...keeping those wily, no-good, double-crossing liars on the hop.
Tip of the Day: Make a list of some of your favorite books and movies. Ask yourself: What lies do the characters in these stories tell themselves and/or each other? How did a lie maintain the story tension and keep the plot moving? How were the lies resolved? What can you learn from these examples to add more conflict to your own fiction?