Teen Tales is a weekly feature that connects the YA experience with YA literature.
I was 19 and in college. I had hilarious roommates-- and a pet frog that needed a supply of live crickets every week. The closest pet shop was a tiny, privately-owned place. After a while, I started to dread going there.
And the dread was my own dang fault.
I made up this whole story about how I was from Darbyshire (why, no, I wasn't at all obsessed with Pride and Prejudice) and had come here to go to college. Not a far-fetched story, as I actually had a friend from England who was here for school.
But here's the problem with lying in a place you intend to frequent: the same people work there all the time. That same clerk was there almost every time I went back, and more employees got to know me as the British girl who came for a weekly cricket supply. Because of course the best thing to do was to KEEP lying and put on the accent, instead of just admitting it was a joke.
I got sick of it. After a few weeks, I went to a different pet store. Relieved I could use my own voice again, I walked in and asked the clerk for crickets. He paused and gave me a strange look, then bagged them up for me. After a minute, he said,
"You know, I used to work for another pet store. I remember you."
"But the thing is, I remember that you had an English accent."
Totally and completely busted. He was the first clerk I had met, the one I told all the biggest lies to. I gave a nervous laugh and a stammering explanation about it being a joke, paid for my crickets, and ran. Of course, my roomies all had a good laugh.
99% of the time, lying comes back to bite you in the butt. And that's why it can be such a great tool in YA books. Teens lie as jokes, they lie to make themselves look better, they lie to get out of trouble, they lie to get out and have fun. (Well, adults do too, but let's focus on YA here.) While in real life you can occasionally get away with a lie, in books your character should nearly always get caught somewhere along the way.
See, a lie is sort of a Chekov's gun-- you don't usually put it in the book unless you're planning on blowing it up in the character's face. It can be a great tool for having the character's world entirely crushed. (We writers are mean like that.) It's a very realistic and humanizing thing to have a character lie and be caught, and can add to the stakes, the climax, and the characterization of your book.
So, my friends, what's the worst (or funniest) lie you've ever told? Did you get caught? Have you ever written a character that lies? Did they get caught?