I’ve been working on character development lately, and I read this article about how I need to have my character believe a lie.
Sounds kind of mean doesn’t it?
Evidently, having my character believe some kind of lie helps the reader connect with her or him and creates an emotional attachment. Some examples of lies are believing that money is the answer to everything, or that I have to be beautiful on the outside to be loved, or that my life will never be complete without so and so. The character isn’t aware of the lie, but she’s basing her decisions on it, and life’s not going so great, and evidently readers just eat that angst up.
As I did more research, I started wondering about the lies I may be believing. It was kind of enlightening to think this through, and even though I’m not completely finished with this little exercise, I thought I would share it with you.
To see the lies we are telling ourselves isn’t easy. It takes some objectivity. In a novel, it takes the entire story for the character to work through all the facets of the lie, and sometimes they never actually see it. They just grow beyond it. So what lies are we telling ourselves?
Money will make me happy.
Being popular is the answer to my loneliness.
No one likes me.
Everybody loves me.
I think some lies are hard to see close up. It takes distance for them to come into focus. For the longest time, I believed the lie that no one could ever really love me. Well, that’s not exactly how it went. It was more of I’m not lovable. Sure, people might say they cared about me. Sure, they might act like they loved me. Sure, they seemed to be very serious about it. But none of that could ever break through the lie that I had told myself.
I even struggled to believe God loved me.
This lie created a circle for me. I would look for love, but then when I got it, I wouldn’t believe it. Seriously not a fun little circle to be spinning in.
Now, in the novel world. I’m supposed to give my character this lie to believe in and then help her find her way to the truth, exchanging what she thinks she wants for what she really needs. This creates a good character arc (there’s a bad character arc where the character ends up worse off than when she began. We won’t be going down that road.) Moving from point A (believing the lie) to point B (being free of the lie) isn’t easy. It causes my character a lot of pain and discomfort, but in the end it’s worth it.
In the real world, it’s probably good for us to stop and evaluate exactly what we’re basing our decisions on. Guilt, fear, extreme hurt, secrets, shame, unforgiveness are all symptoms of the lie, not the lie itself. So it takes some painful digging to get down to the truth. But I think it’s probably worth it. I’ve been taking another look at my life for lies that I’ve let creep in, and I want to encourage you to do the same. May the character arc within which we live be written by the hand of the author and perfecter of our souls, not by the father of lies.
“They exchanged the truth of god for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather that the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.” Romans 1:25
Another winner, Mary Beth.
Thanks Fred! I hope you’re doing well.