Revision Hell: Lies My Characters Told Me

One thing I’m watching for as I wade through revisions is the Big Fat Lie.  Yes, even my most beloved na’lanna characters I’ve known for years have an appalling tendency to lie.  They will say things that don’t quite ring true, or do things which in hindsight make me scratch my head.

Okay, okay, I must be honest.  These lies my characters perpetrate are actually my own failing.  What happens is that I flinch.  There’s something the character really wants to say or do, but I’m too cowardly to let them have at it on the page.  OMG, what will people think?

And then boom, here come the lies.

If I’m writing the first draft, I can feel the anxiety begin in a particularly difficult scene.  I’ve finally learned to just get through it, whatever I have to do — even lie just a bit.  Maybe it’s not as edgy as Gregar really is.  Maybe it’s a little TSTL on Shannari’s part.  Maybe it’s too touchy feely for Rhaekhar.  But I get through it, because I know I can’t fix a blank page.

Now in revision, it’s a little easier to face the truth.  Maybe because the first battle of simply finishing the book has been won, and now I can gird up a different kind of loins for the emotional battle.  In fact, this is the opportunity for me to deliberately make myself more uncomfortable.  That’s when I know I’m really wringing the heart and tearing at the gut, which is the only kind of story that makes Gregar smile.

Make it worse.  Go for big, over the top, even shocking responses.  Don’t be safe.  Don’t take the first response — which is what I got in the first draft.  Don’t be a coward.  Don’t flinch from the truth, no matter how ugly and painful. 

At the end of the day, I may then choose to let a character tell a different kind of lie, because as Conn said in Dear Sir, I’m Yours:

Everybody lies, darlin’, even if only to themselves.

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