When writing a novel are all your characters going to act honestly and always tell the truth? I’m not talking about the big, whopping lies to cover up a murder or a jewellery store heist, but the smaller, mundane, everyday lies.
For instance, a character might lie to another about his feelings for that person, or somebody else like a mutual friend. They might lie about where they have been, or maybe even just fudge the truth a little. This happens in real life, every day, every minute of every day probably. And we are left to guess who is lying about what, how much of the time they are lying, and what the truth might actually be. Actually that depends on what kind of personality you are. The more paranoid amongst us will assume that most people we meet and interact with are lying most of the time. The less paranoid and more laid back we are the more likely we are to take what we hear at face value.
But fiction isn’t real life, and in a novel you get the chance to explain everything up front, lay it all out in the open so that your reader doesn’t have to play the guessing game. This is particularly true of omniscient third person narration. We can explain who is lying, what they are lying about, and what the truth of the matter actually is.
But what if you don’t explain? What if you leave it to your reader to figure it out for himself? Just like real life your reader might not even know when his is seeing a lie, never mind having to penetrate the lie to find the truth. Those of your readers more inclined to paranoia may question your characters’ motivations and statements, while the more sanguine may accept what they are reading and not question anything. And so some of your characters may well get away with their fabrications completely undetected by one portion of your audience, whilst at other times they will not.
Does that then add to your novel, or detract from it?
How much should you explain?