Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Dialogue Part 5: How To Write Liar Dialogue

 Last week we reviewed several posts here on Dialogue. 


This is a craft technique essential to characterization, plotting scene structure, creating an atmosphere, describing settings and objects in the setting, planting clues to the mystery.  It is not a good tool for narration or exposition.  In fact, it bores the reader right out of the story when used for exposition.

One way to use dialogue for exposition (talking ABOUT the theme) is to "show don't tell" the theme by detailing scenes in which characters lie to each other.  Nothing explicates a character's stance on "right and wrong" more clearly than their lies, tall tales, and the mannerisms accompanying the lie.  When, where, to whom, and why they lie creates a totally "off the nose" exposition on the ethics and morality of the world in which the characters live.

This being Election day, it's appropriate to consider the thesis of the the non-fiction book "You Can't Lie to Me" by Janine Driver.

Here is the book:

We all know what a hot, sexy topic lies can be -- it's a core topic in every Romance.  Does "I love you" really mean anything at all?  Why is it so IMPORTANT to hear those words?  Why does it change everything in a relationship? 

The thesis of this book may have something to unlock that mystery.

I've noticed something studying the astrological natal charts of Politicians.  Those elected to major offices all seem to be having a lifetime PEAK of solar arc contacts that indicate sexiness, interest in love, and artistic abilities. 

That could be WHY we see so many politicians embroiled in sexual infidelity and exploits that are otherwise inexplicable considering the stakes they are playing for in life. 

It's about POWER.  When the heavens open up and POUR into a human being, when you reach a time in life when sheer POWER flows through you -- it can crack open any flaw in your character.  Strengths become weakness. 

If you are given power you are not inwardly trained (from the cradle, trained and disciplined (Saturn) ) to handle, that power splashes out of the appropriate internal channel within the character and damages other parts of the character.  It's a basic principle of magic and explained quite clearly in astrology.

Hence we have the saying "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  I've never believed that and I still don't.  But it is an observed fact -- at least when observing from the outside of people.

I don't think power corrupts.  I think that when the character hasn't been developed by discipline as a child, (being raised to "power" as the old aristocracy raised a child to be King), what we observe from the outside as a "change" (i.e. corruption of values) is no change at all.  It's the illumination of what was there. 

If the "insulation" on a wire isn't strong enough, and you run too much current through it, the insulation melts and the current leaks out and causes a FIRE - houses  burn down because of frayed wiring.

A character flaw is like that -- the "insulation" on the circuits is built during childhood by discipline and the gradual increasing of the amount of personal power the individual must manage -- taking consequences for mistakes.

A PERSON is both born and raised -- there are inherent specifications on the insulation in the internal circuitry, but that insulation can become "frayed" by "life" (by not being raised to have a strong character).

Each of us has a limit to what we can handle in terms of "power."  Each limit is different.  And one can "get away with" carrying more than the limit for years and years -- but just like frayed wiring, a power-surge can burn off the insulation and cause a short-circuit, cause a "fire."

Understanding that gives a Romance writer (science fiction, Paranormal Romance or otherwise) an edge in creating a character who deceives or manipulates, betrays or uses another character, using the power of sexuality to convince someone of a lie -- or lying to themselves.

This is a book that can explain it in such a way that a writer can write a character who is carrying way too much POWER and has become "corrupt" by it -- has lost cohesiveness in their control of power.

I do not accept most of the assumptions in this book as having much to do with our everyday reality, but it can be useful to writers creating fictional characters.  You will observe this phenomenon in real people.  It is there.  But personally, I don't believe it has to be there.  Raised well, most people will not find that they function this way.

What way?

The thesis of this book is that physiologically, those who have power OVER the person they're talking to (parent to child, employer to employee, Elected Official to Constituent, Lover to love-starved lover) feel no guilt or remorse when saying something they know to be untrue.  Men say "I love you" to have sex with a woman, and feel no guilt if it's not true as the woman thinks it must be.

They feel no guilt because they are emotionally focused on what they have to gain by making you believe the lie.

Liars who have less power than the person they are speaking to exhibit physiological and detectible mannerisms of guilt (think of a 5 year old caught with hand in the candy jar denying stealing the candy). 

Liars who have more power (President Obama making a speech right as Seal Team 6 was heading in to get Bin Laden) think only of the benefits not what there is to lose and actually don't have the brain chemicals in play that a guilty liar would. 

I don't want someone who CAN LIE in charge of any kind of power.  This book says the POWER ITSELF causes the effect that creates the ability to lie undetected.  Thus an elected official who feels powerful for the first time in his life thinks he can sneak off to have an affair then confront his wife WITHOUT TWITCHING in guilt -- confront the voters and say perfectly straight that he didn't have sex with that woman (remember Bill Clinton). 

So if this book is correct, creating a social structure that has any nexus of POWER in it anywhere (i.e. the man is king of his castle and obliged to beat his wife), actually breeds expert liars.

Therefore we have to decentralize everything and destruct all the crossing points (desks) of Power.  Nobody can be trusted to make decisions for other people, or decisions that affect and direct others. 

That's a science fiction premise you could base a long series on. 

But what if we select and raise certain children to have that strong insulation that can carry that much current and not melt down and cause a brain-fire of power-madness? 

That, too, is a science fiction premise that could support a long series of Romances. 

I suspect the fascination with Regency Romance novels is based on this, as is the Fantasy field depicting Kings, Kingdoms, Aristocracy, Barons, Dukes.  Writers have been groping for this book's premise for some time.

What happens to a PERSON when handed POWER?  How can we prevent absolute power from corrupting absolutely?

Are we helpess in the face of human nature?  Or can we produce (as bees produce a Queen to lay eggs) individuals specialized to handling power without getting burned? 

Here's the book to read to learn to write the dialogue for such a series of Romance novels.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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