We All Like To Be Lied To image

And that’s the truth!

 

Don’t you hate it when you’re writing a story and your readers have already guessed the ending before they even finish the third chapter? This can be incredibly troublesome for writers who are trying to build a fan base because when a story is too transparent it’s really hard to keep readers reading. Fortunately, this problem has a very simple remedy: use deception!

Deception is found in all sorts of novels, but it’s most obvious in mysteries. Authors use deception in several different ways, one of which is something we’ve all heard at some point in our lives: The Red Herring. But what is this ‘Red Herring’ thing?

Red Herrings are used to divert attention away from what’s really happening. They can be found in many forms, like your main character’s sidekick or a dummy villain that appears to be guiltier than a kid holding a slingshot. If you use a sidekick, whenever a crucial clue is revealed have your sidekick come up with a logical explanation for it, or if it’s in the form of a villain you can point all evidence toward him instead of the real culprit. This will help distract your readers from seeing the bigger picture.

Speaking of bigger pictures, you’re going to want to hide that from your readers. Not all events in your story should push it forward. By throwing in dead ends and false information, you’ll force your readers to rewrite all of the theories that they’ve built while trying to figure out what’s going on. To do this you can add forks into your story, like plot twists that don’t really go anywhere. These forks can not only distract your readers from guessing what’s really going to happen but can also help your story read in a more realistic tone. Let’s face it, real life doesn’t run on a straight and narrow path, so why would your story?

Paths are tricky, especially if you’ve never walked it before. In other words, if you meet a fork in the road and take your readers to left, when they should have gone right, how are they going to know that you’ve led them astray? Make your readers believe that you’re not lying to them. Increase their certainty with all of the wrong facts, while being extra careful to only drop teeny tiny clues to what’s really going on. By throwing up the proverbial curtain, your readers are more likely to accept an obvious explanation rather than to dig a little deeper and unveil what’s really going on. But why stop there? You’ve guided your readers the wrong way, so now it’s time to make it believable.

The mind likes to arrange things. It looks for patterns and rhythms to help it follow what’s going on and keep track of things. You can use this to your advantage! As your story progresses, throw in some kind of pattern. For example, every time your main character seems to get a little closer to the truth, make that truth or clue out to be a dead end. In no time, your reader begins to expect another dead end, so your readers won’t even realize that one of these dead ends was actually an open gate. Be clever with it. Don’t arrange it in a sequential order. Have something missed earlier in the story that eventually clicks. Make it subtle when it’s first mentioned then throw it back in their face down the road. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to use patterns to deceive. All you have to do is put a little thought into it.

Put all of this deception into one heaping pile and what do you get? The bones of a story that your readers just can’t get enough of! Just make sure to keep track of all of your deceptiveness, otherwise you might just deceive yourself and leave your readers feeling betrayed. Of course, that might not always be a bad thing.

Published March 1, 2012

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