Lies Our Characters Believe

By Winter Austin, author of ReckoningRevengeRetribution, and Relentless

ReckoningGoing back as far as late 2008, I’ve worked with this concept of character lies to better develop my heroes and heroines in all of my books. Before that, I had never heard of this particular idea on how to strengthen what Debra Dixon calls the GMC, or Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. The writing and industry circles I moved in at that time had come up with what they considered 8 main lies characters believe and how this shapes their motivation in the stories.

Then just as recent as 2011, I discovered another place that talked more extensively about the lies people believe and how to use this with our characters. An actual family therapist/counselor had created a website and blog called The Character Therapist, where she’s helped writers discover how to write more realistic characters. I use this site and this page: The Lies Our Characters Believe in particular every time I need to develop a new character. Once you’ve cracked the character’s lie, it makes it easier to discover what motivates them to do the things they do and to create a richly detailed backstory. They come alive, become like real, flesh-and-blood, people.

I’ve also used Tami Cowden’s website Character’s Archetype to lock down what kind of characters, good and bad, I’m about to write. Sometimes I discover the archetype before I know what the lie is, but the lie tends to grow out of knowing what kind of archetype my characters are. I’m particularly fond of the Villain’s Archetype as some of my best baddies have revealed how truly evil or nasty they are from this list.

For romance novels, and for my particular genre of romantic suspense, these concepts come into play with everything our characters are or do. The heroine who is reluctant to get close to the hero might believe the lie “don’t be close” because she’s been hurt or used in the past when she got too close to someone who she loved, whether a parent, a sibling, a friend, or lover. In order for her to reveal her motivation, she’ll do everything she can to push the hero away, going so far as to hurt him emotionally. All of these things thread into the GMC and as a writer or author you’ll find how easy it is to go deep into your character’s point of view. How? Well, we humans believe the same things due to how we were raised or incidents in our lives that have impacted us. We can use things that have shaped us as fodder for our character’s lives.

Be warned, by visiting these sites and delving into these concepts, you may find yourself analyzing your personal life and how everything you’ve lived through has made you believe a lie. It’s truly eye-opening and it may just change your life.

One of my closest brainstorming and writing partners, Rachel Leigh Smith, recently posted a great blog article on how the lies characters believe played out beautifully in the movie, Frozen. You must check it out: Lessons From Frozen. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want it spoiled, then you can check out both websites to learn more about the Lies and Character Archetypes.

While this post was geared toward the writer, there’s a bit here for the reader, too. So I pose this question to you:

Going off the list Lies Characters Believe, what do you think was the lie one of your all-time favorite characters believed, and how do you think that lie helped you enjoy that particular character?