"I'm Not Lying"

This week’s post comes from an observation during the day job where I work as a collector for past due accounts.  I hear all the excuses, and could probably compile a book, if not a complete library, of weird things I’ve heard.  Here’s one:  my house caught fire, and I can’t get to the bank to get some checks issued from them.  Meanwhile, the guy’s not upset in the least.  It made me want to drive by just to confirm the story.  And the common one, of course, the check is in the mail.  It’s easy to see that some things we’re told are outright lies, but sometimes, it’s harder to distinguish truth from fiction.

For example, more recently a customer told me about the financial problems they’re having.  Note, they broke several promises before – saying they’d pay up the account by a certain time, that date comes and passes – no money.  But this person gets on the phone, and talks nice to me, tries to make me sympathize with her, and keeps saying throughout the conversation, “I just don’t want you to think I’m lying, because I’m not.”

Wait a minute here! 

First of all, why would I assume they were lying?  Of course, the relationship has been stressed by broken promises, but sometimes things arise that make keeping them impossible.  As an honest person, I’ve never said that statement in my life, “I’m not lying.”  I mean, seriously, what is the point when I know I’m not?  It’s not something I need to point it out to my listener.

The scenario has led me to do some brainstorming.  How often do we say what we mean?  How often do our words reveal our true motives, and agendas?

I guess this is why they say dialogue is an important aspect of character development.  What our characters say, tells our reader a lot about them.  Using the above example as a springboard for analysis, maybe the character we’re discussing has been pulled in for interrogation by police.  When asked certain questions, they may shy away, act strange, distracted, defensive – but what if you harassed the power of dialogue here?  Have them say something off-cuff, possibly similar to above, “I’m not lying”.  Do you think your detective would pick up on something like this?  They should.

Or what if you’re a romance novelist, and your two main characters can’t allow themselves to drop their pride long enough to reveal their true feelings?   Between the way they act, and the words they say, this will sharpen the contrast that is human nature.

This line of thought could be expanded to encompass action as well.  How often do emotions, or agenda, guide us to act differently than what we say?  For example, a person can preach about moderation when it comes to alcohol, and be a closet drinker.  A person can boast about righteous standards, yet abuse his mate.

I know there are a lot of other ways this observation of human nature can be applied.  What are your thoughts?


  1. nice post! I did the collections thing for a short while too - that's a tough job! and I like how you related it to character shaping =)

  2. I love this! My first time here, I love the way you write, going on real stories and experiences. thank you for sharing

  3. Being observant in real life is so important when it come to shaping fictional characters--thanks for sharing!

  4. Tara, you too eh? I've been doing collections for about 13 years or so now.

    BlogRreview, that is the nicest compliment to me. Thank you, and welcome to my blog.

    And Elle, I can't get over what is gleamed by brainstorming situations, and attitudes/characteristics of people, that I would have just overlooked before. I'm glad you enjoyed the post too :)

  5. It's funny, I never thought about what an absurd statement "I'm not lying" is. Why would the guy bring the idea of lying into the situation?
    Well, because we humans aren't as good at deception as we think we are! There is always something that gives us away - the wrong word at the wrng time, a shifty gaze, plucking at a loose thread. "The truth will out", as they say, and it's fun for us crime writers to find different ways to "out it"!

  6. I almost forgot - I awarded you a blogging prize: http://steamandink.blogspot.com/2011/04/lovely-blog-award-feel-good-moment.html

  7. Aw, Charlotte! Thank you :)
    I shall go claim it, and pay it forward!


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