Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Creating The Lie

Writers take time to develop their characters. They figure out their history; they give them goals; and they give them obstacles to overcome.There is a lot to character development, but I learned something new recently at My Book Therapy that completely changed the way I look at it.

Character development hinges on The Lie. You see, your hero needs to overcome something in his life. There needs to be some lie he believes that taints every part of his belief system, every action, and every thought process.

Example: In the movie Cinderella, she (Cinderella) believes the lie that she is not worthy of real love or family. She is just the servant, and she does her job while trying to find happiness and purpose in caring for the mice in the house, hopeful that one day she might be raised up as a true daughter.

The Lie must be confirmed by a Dark Moment. There must come a time when the lie your hero believes becomes reality. It is confirmed by circumstance or another characters words. This is the point when your hero resigns himself to the fact that the lie is true and lives accordingly.

Example: Cinderella is told she can attend the king's ball if she gets all her work finished and have something suitable to wear. She will be included with the family at last. Getting her work finished and decked out in a dress made by her animal friends, she joins her step-mother and step-sisters, only to be mauled by the sisters and left in tatters. She is rejected once again. She is not worthy.

The truth is hinted at. Somehow your hero needs to feel a hint of truth in their lives. They must begin to question the lie and wonder at the truth that is hinted at. Using a secondary character to do this is a great way to teach the truth.

Example: Cinderella's fairy godmother shows up and says she only needs one thing to go to the ball and enjoy the festivities. She just needs a dress...and a carriage, and livery, and so on and so on. She is worthy to go to the ball, with or without a family, and the fairy godmother is going to make sure she goes!

Another example is when the prince sends out servants with the glass slipper to find his future bride. He deems her worthy and is searching for her. She is filled with hope and excitement when she learns of this.

The Black Moment brings the Lie back into focus, forcing the hero to choose between believing the lie or choosing the truth. This is the the point of no return. It is the lowest of the lows and brings your hero to a point where he must choose. Does he believe the lie and sink back into his deluded life? Or does he choose to believe the truth, confronting the lie and pushing past it.

Example: When the servant with the glass slipper arrives at Cinderella's door, her step-mother locks her in the tower so that Cinderella couldn't claim the slipper (for the step-mother has discovered Cinderella is the one the prince is searching for). Cinderella could have just cried herself to sleep, resigned to the fact that the prince would eventually find someone who would fit into the slipper and live happily ever after. But no, she decides to fight and find a way to escape. She enlists the help of her mice friends and eventually is freed. In believing the truth that she is worthy, she has the confidence to run down the stairs in her tattered servant clothes and ask to try on the slipper. She is the one. She is worthy. She is now living in the truth.

Every book has a spiritual road, and every hero must travel on it. Whether it is a Christian book or a secular book, there is a spiritual/emotional journey that the characters experience. It is up to the the writer to give the characters the starting place and a final destination.

The Lie is the starting point. It is the basis of the journey, for the character must search for the truth and find it. That is the final destination - the Truth. It really will set them free...and satisfy your reader in the process.

What is the LIE your character believes? Why do they believe it?

This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is wife to "Pastor John" and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this interesting perspective on developing character! I hadn't thought of it this way before.

Joanne Sher said...

Ohh Sherrinda. This is GOOD! I'd heard about "the lie," but never really understood until this very post. GREAT stuff.

My MC believes the lie that her heritage has doomed her to a life of servanthood and unhappiness. And NOW I have some work to do, using this outline. THANKS!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

This is excellent, Sherrinda! I'm going to have to think this one through for my WIP. Very deep!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I thought about conflicts, not in the sense of telling a lie. What if what the character believes is true?

Beth K. Vogt said...

Such a good post, Sherrinda! Learning about the Lie was powerful for me to -- and how it drives our characters' actions and decisions, creating a wound. I love the statement that God heals the Lie (with his truth) and the hero heals the wound.

Susie Ma said...

Well explained Sherrinda!! I agree - when i figured out the Lie concept, it totally changed the way I wrote my stories. Great post!

Pepper said...

This was a WONDERFUL post, Sherrinda.
I'm printing it off!!!
Fabulous way to break down the lie.
Love it!!

Now...to make sure my black moment is dark enough and the lie is long enough to last a whole novel :-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Such good stuff here, Sherrinda! I've been doing a lot of studying of internal arcs, and this is like a power-pack lesson. :)

Patty Wysong said...

*Light bulb moment*
Great post! This post is sitting in my printer, ready for me to grab a pen and read again. =]

Thank you!!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

My heroine believes a lie about family, too. She believes she doesn't need one--in fact, she believes she doesn't need anyone. It's been a challenge making her strong and independent and...I guess cold in some ways, and yet still making her relatable. Great post!

Lindsay Harrel said...

One of my MCs believes she has to work for forgiveness. She's done something terrible nearly two decades ago, and is still trying to atone for it.

Anonymous said...

Sherrinda, you did a great job explaining this! :) Loved how you used "Cinderella" to show the aspects of the lie journey. :)

My hero believes that when he shows emotion people get hurt. Therefore, he tries to stuff it all inside.

Thanks, Sherrinda!

Unknown said...

Love, love, love this post! Who doesn't adore Cinderella?

And your bio, Sherrinda, is just awesome. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Very well put! Love this Sherrinda!

My first character's main lie would probably be: My eternal salvation and standing in this life are based on my works.

#2 (haven't started the actual writing, though)MC's lie is: I am forever defined by my darkest moment, I cannot find redemption for killing my grandchild.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Andrea, isn't it great to see something in a different light or a new perspective? Sometimes it helps to learn something new that way.

Joanne, I'm so glad it was helpful! And your character's lie is one that will provide a great spiritual journey, for isn't the truth that our heritage is really in God? We are his child and though we do serve Him, we are free! Free to live in joy in Him.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Karen, I don't know how "deep" it is, but I know it was like a light bulb moment for me when I heard about The Lie. It really made the spiritual journey make sense.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Peaches, I have to say your question kinda stumped me. My first response was if what she believes is true, then it's not really a lie. But, having said that...let's just play with that a bit.

Say your heroine has a speech impediment which causes her to be shy and fearful of having to talk in front of people. That is a fact...a truth. But the lie she could believe is no one will ever love her for who she is inside. Or maybe she will never be taken seriously as a journalist because she has a hard time interviewing people. Or maybe she thinks of herself as unintelligent since she dropped out of college because she couldn't deal with the oral presentations. Often the lie is something they come to believe because of an experience that has happened to them.

You see, she could have been raised in a home that gave her therapy and encouraged her verbally. She could have crossed paths with people that helped her to see the truth that she IS worthy, no matter what her obstacles are. It is what we really BELIEVE about ourselves-no matter what hard facts we live with-that make or break us.

I have no idea if any of that made sense or if it even applied to your question, Peaches.

Anyone else have any ideas?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Beth!!! You could have taught this so much better, girl! YES, you are so correct. It is God who heals our lie and the hero heals the would. That is excellent, isn't it?

Susan, you are a MBT gal, aren't you? (MBT, meaning My Book Therapy for all you non-MBT people! You should be though!) And incorporating the Lie into your stories is working for you, isn't it? You are doing well in contests!!! YAY!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Pepper! You printed off my post? Seriously?

I am so honored.


Sigh...life can't get much better than that.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Sarah, power-packed! lol I love it. I was writing this late last night, wondering if I was making any sense! I'm soooo glad it did.

Patty!!!!! I love light-bulb moments! And The Lie was definitely a light-bulb moment for me as well. I'm honored you would print off my post! ;)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Cindy, your character's lie is a good one, in as far as developing a great internal arc. You can do so much healing and growing with that!

Lindsay, that is an awesome LIE. And it is really relateable. So many of us do something in our past that we regret or are ashamed of. It is so hard to forgive ourselves, and that is really hard to live with. Good job!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Jeanne, I love it when a man thinks he has to be strong, but inside he feels deeply. Get that baby published so I can read it!

Rachelle, thank you! I'm glad you got something out of it. And I had to go back and read my bio to see what it said! lol Thanks!

Julia, wow! Your characters lies are excellent. The first one speaks to soooo many of us who have trouble accepting grace. And the second...well, wow! That would be a hard load to bear, wouldn't it. The healing that God brings in the Truth will be such a victory. :)

Angie Dicken said...

Great perspective, Sherrinda! It helps so much to establish that lie before writing, so you have a clear vision of where their arc is going.
My character's lie is that she doesn't deserve where God has her, and she tries her hardest to escape it. But she'll discover that God's plan for her brings life abundantly where she is at, and life is what you make it. She also deals with unforgiveness and blame, lots of redemption is going to occur!
Wow, this was really hard to explain...I am glad I read this post at the beginning of my wip...I'll be aware of staying true to the lie! Ha!

Pepper said...

Sherrinda, my friend, you are such a goober. I love you. But good grief, I have soooooooo much to learn, and you are a fab teacher, lady.

Ashley Clark said...

Great post, Sherrinda! Loved the Cinderella examples! The lie is something that's easy for me to skip past when first starting a new book, but it really is so important to slow down to take time to develop it. Thanks for the great tips!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Angie, I understood perfectly and it sounds like this girl has a lot to overcome. But isn't that what makes a book riveting? When the heroine or hero push through to victory, no matter what is thrown at them? So stay true to that lie and write a book that cannot be put down!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh my goodness! It has always been a dream of mine to be someone's goober!

Sigh....now I can die a happy camper!

Please, please, please try to come to the ACFW conference!!! I so want to laugh with you!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Thank you Ashley! I am not really sure how Cinderella came to mind when I was thinking of examples, but the story fit pretty well, I thought.

Pepper said...

I HAVE to meet you in person, sister. It will be ridiculously wonderful!!!

Mary Curry said...

Thank you, Sherrinda!!! I've been meaning to go into the MBT library and dig this out. I have a feeling it will really help with my conflict. Thanks so much for explaining it so well!

So what do you think Castle's lie is? ;)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mary, are you a team member at MBT? I signed up and have been in awe of all the resources they have! It's amazing!

Okay, you posed a hard question in asking what Castle's lie is! Hhmmmm, if I had to guess, I would say he believes there is only one goal in life: to enjoy all the fun you can, whether it is in games (laser tag, poker), women (he was a playboy before Beckett), and even his work.(playing cop, researching his previous books, etc)I would think that given his mother's lifestyle, he didn't have a good male role model and no real loving marriage to observe. His lie is he'll never find real, lasting love, so have as much fun as you can, while you can. He never saw his mother in a lasting relationship, and his marriage certainly didn't last, proving the lie. It's only in his relationship with Beckett that the truth is hinted at. Lasting love is possible! :)

Mary, what do you think Castle's lie is?

Mary Curry said...

I am a team member, Sherrinda. Just need to find the time to spend over there. It's been a grueling school year.

Castle - I'd say his lie is that he doesn't think he's capable of a lasting love. Feelings of worth maybe?

I have to admit I've missed way too many episodes this season. Have lots of catching up to do.

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Hmm maybe Castle's Lie is that no one will take him seriously-- and that's why he builds his identity around playing. If that's who he is he'll never have to face his lie, because it's not even in his (self) identity.

That could play into his writing really serious books about murder, too: his sublimated desire to be taken seriously...


My concern is about cliche: Just like the girl who doesn't welcome the hero because she's been burned in a previous relationship, the Lie of "Not worthy" is relateable, but (to me) feels too general.

And I'm probably saying that b/c my MC's lie is in that "unworthy" angle. No one (in her world) would choose a teenage mother (especially with the father of her child having disappeared mysteriously after she accused him of rape).

Her wound is rejection-- but I don't know what to call her lie; especially since that lie (I'm not lovable) doesn't last till the end-end.

By this theory, does that mean it should? I mean, does her confidence not belong until the climax, or should there be more than one lie?

Jessica Nelson said...

Great examples! I have trouble figuring out the lies my characters believe. Not sure I've developed my craft well enough yet, but I'm working on it!

Casey said...

This is SUCH a fantastic post, one I need to over again. Getting the line into the black moment can be my biggest struggle. I'm really excited to take Susie's class at ACFW where she teaches about the inner journey. I think it's going to be soo helpful!

Rachel Hauck said...

Excellent! You are an approved My Book Therapy grad student!!


Rachel Hauck said...

Peaches, the lie is about the inner journey which can effect the outer journey.

But the lie is what forces the journey. It relates to the story question.

Which causes the character to face her inner wound, lie, fear and come to an epiphany!

If she believes something true, then there's no epiphany.

She can believe truth, but just not about herself. Or one aspect of herself.


Susie May (MBT Girl) said...

I am piggy-backing on what Casey said. I'll be teaching the full-blown lie journey at ACFW this fall. (Showing how to incorporate it step by step into your novels). Also, to help explain this a bit more, inside the Advanced Team Member access at MBT is a 30 minute video on the LIE journey in April's Chalktalk video (it's in the Locker room section). If a person wanted to hear it, they could sign up for a Free 24 Hour access pass to MBT and go to the Locker room and listen to it. :) (http://mbt24hrpass.mybooktherapy.com) - it has the worksheets and mp3 version there also. Yes - when I figured this out, the inner journey suddenly began to make sense to me - I've tried to simplify it as much as possible on the site.

Castle's lie? That there will never be long-lasting true love for him (thanks to his mother!).

Beckett's lie? That she will lose the person she loves.

I think. :)

Did you not love that kiss?! Yay!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Jessica!!! You are so funny! You are published and you are worried about your craft???? I believe you have it down, girl!

Casey!!! Since I haven't signed up for ACFW yet, I haven't gone to see the courses...because I will get so impatient waiting on the money to come in!!! I am definitely taking Susan Warren's class!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Rachel! Thank you for the compliment, but I am far from graduating! I just joined MBT as a Team Member and have been devouring the site, trying to learn all I can. I have a long way to go, but I am so glad to have the tools I need at my fingertips. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh my goodness! Susie May herself! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing how others can get access to such great tools for writing. You and your team are so good at teaching writing on an easy-to-understand level.

And yes...I absolutely LOVEd the Castle's kiss, especially when he took command of it. Sigh...I love a man in charge.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Amy Jane, you asked great questions, though I confess to not really feeling qualified to answer. Maybe Rachel Hauck or Susie May Warren could answer better.

I don't think cliches mean as much as the nature of the lie. Many plots are cliche, but come to life with different spins on them. Same thing with the lie. The lie of being unworthy may be used a lot, but the reasons for feeling that way can be varied (anywhere from rape to stealing your friend's boyfriend). Everyone tells a story differently.

Now about the lie lasting until the end, I'm not really sure what you mean. Does she come to the truth in the middle of the book or close to the end? Read Rachel Hauck's response to Peach's in the comments above. It's the lie that forces the journey. When she finds the truth, the journey is over. I suppose she could have another lie to combat to keep the conflict/journey going.

Did any of that make sense? :)

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Thanks for responding, Sherrinda.

Re: the lie 'lasting to the end' I'm working with a (fairytale) plot that has the couple married near the beginning, but separated for a lot of the middle. My first take on the Heroine's Lie was that it's the Unworthy, like I mentioned, but that is "healed" half-way through the story. (option a in the next paragraph.)

There's two ways I can try and play with this Lie. a) the marriage (and early weeks/trials together) break the lie.
They go through some pretty intense stuff right after the wedding. In my view of the character that got her over the question of whether she was value-able.

But then he leaves (for a real & temporary reason). This could precipitate the b) version, where the lie resurfaces and lasts another 1/3 of the story, but that sort of thing feels sloppy for me.

I mean, I get Becket doubting/turning away from Castle for a bit, but for three episodes? that would feel contrived and I'd (as a viewer) feel cheated.

You see enough commitment and sacrifice from someone, I think it breaks through. And I guess this is why I ask if I "need" another lie:

My story kind of works in reverse, with the Hero/ine having to deal with solitary issues after, the couple issues (arraigned marriage and all that...)

The end-end of the story doesn't happen until the husband returns and their effectiveness together (fighting the bad guy) is proven to be better than before.

So her personal lie could be that she has nothing to contribute... That ties into unworthy/worthless.

The trick, you see, is that this is adventure (?) not straight romance, so the lie needs to be something about her, not something about the way people respond to her.

(i.e., if the wound is healed by the hero she could be reconciled to her outer/relational world, but not to herself, which is the second part of her journey-- one I think she could only make because of the first healing.)

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Separate question:
How many characters should have their own Lie?

Would this be a time to incorporate/identify the "flat" characters Mary spoke of last week and carefully leave out their lie/growth pattern?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Susie May, thank you for sharing your knowledge here. I still feel like a beginner with many areas of writing, so I was wondering how to answer Amy Jane.

Amy, I totally agree with Susie May...your book sounds intriguing! And it seems like you have a good grasp of your story and where it needs to go.

Amy, you also asked about the secondary characters and their lie. I think your main characters need their own spiritual journey. In fact, in Katie Ganshert's debut book, Wildflowers from Winter, she has 3 characters who have a strong spiritual journey. (In fact, the 3rd character is getting her own book!) I'm sure My Book Therapy will have information about that as well on their site. I encourage you to take the free pass and check out My Book Therapy! :)

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Thank you both. SM, that was a really helpful summary, and I'm totally keen to check out the lecture now.

Thanks for your kind words about my story. I'm scared to take it seriously (familial pressure and all that) but I feel called back continually and now I'm praying to be faithful to finish-for-real this time.

I'm on revision #11. I really hope I know where it's going by now & I want to finish taking it there. (Not to mention that I'm running out of oomph & believers I'm even *capable of finishing. I've been on my own for a while, so MBT might be a needed boost. If I can convince myself writing can fit for real and be worth it {ignore the quivering lip, it's just gotten really intense at the homestead for a bit.})

Sherrinda, I've been working on this story long enough I swear I have journeys for at least *5* characters. I don't know who to back off of (turn flat), now that I know them all. That's why I was asking how many Lies belong in a story.

I always hated how "simplistic" certain stories were, skiffing over some really interesting people, and now I can see becoming one of *those* types I couldn't stand.

It's very hard to look at crow on your plate...

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Amy Jane, tell that crow to fly off your plate! You don't have to eat crow, girl! You can get it done and feel good about your accomplishment. I don't think there's any "correct" way to write. Everyone is different. Every story is different. Write the story of your heart and move on. (This has been hard for me, but I'm told you get better and it gets easier with each novel you write.) Then after you get a few novels under your belt, you can go back to this first story and see if you can make it better. You will be able to look at it with fresh AND experienced eyes and see if it needs more work.

I've really enjoyed our comment conversation! :)

Amy Jane (UntanglingTales) said...

Thanks, Sherrinda.
That 'get it done and move on' is what I need to hear.

I forget this isn't my only chance, and sometimes I forget that no one can bar me from trying again even if this one *is* as worthless as I fear.

Which it can't be (I tell myself) because I'm doing the time, and not limiting myself to my own experience. {wink}

Thanks for your part and your encouragement.

V. Gingerich said...

Okay, I am way late here, but this is such a helpful post and I thought I'd say thanks, now that I came back to reread it. So thanks!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wanderer!!! It's never to late to comment! I am so glad the post was helpful. I know it really helped ME when I wrote it, because it made me really formulate the whole lie issue. And to take a movie and break it down...well, that is a GREAT exercise!