Teen Tales: Liar, Liar

Oct 10, 2011

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.

See, the first time I ever went, my roomies and I were in a giggly sort of mood. The kind that makes you do stupid things. For example, when we walked into the store, I pretended to have an English accent. Apparently it was fairly convincing, because the clerk asked where I was from.

I lied.

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."

Oh no.

"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?


Angela Cothran said...

I have nothing as funny as that story :)That was BRILLIANT! BRILLIANT! (I was using my British accent, could you hear it?)

Emily R. King said...

If I could fake an British accent I would totally do it, but I can't. You're story made me smile.
Lying in a book can lead to good misdirection, especially if you're writing a who-done-it? Other than that, I don't use much of it.
Great post!

Melissa Hurst said...

Oh, that was hilarious! Not for you back then, but it makes a great story now:)

I was busted telling a lie (along with three of my friends) when we were around 17 years old. We each told our parents we were staying with one of the group, but we really ended up staying out all night. I was grounded for almost a month!

i'm erin. said...

I think it's so funny that your post is about lying. I do love a good English accent. But my post is about lying today too. We are meant to be blog besties!

Abby Fowers said...

LOL - I am too busy laughing at this story to even think of one of my own. This is hilarious.

Jessie Humphries said...

That is a hilarious story! I have one similiar. I loved English accents in college, had two British roomates and all. I practiced all the time, even at work as a waitress at the Olive Garden. Until repeat customer called me out! Emberassing.

Unknown said...

Hahaha oh man! I would have been mortified! Hehe oh I'm still giggling over this.

E. Arroyo said...

LOL. I'm not a good liar. I believe "liar" get's chiseled on my forehead the moment I intend to lie. But this is great!

Jenilyn Collings said...

I love this story! Very funny!

Anonymous said...

There was this one time, in college, (seems to be the place to lie) My friends and I told a couple of their guy friends that my name was Nee, yes, Nee, my name is Melanie but we told them it was Nee, just Nee, and that was my name and it was chilean(That part is sort of true, I'm half Chilean).

So this boy called me Nee and a couple days later i told him the truth, and he was devesated. THen we sort of started dating and he called me Nee still because that it what I was introduced as.

I would have to personally e-mail you the rest of the story because I don't want to publicly post about it.

But it's funny. And I will never call my self another name again.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

THAT IS A GREAT STORY (and my caplock was on, sorry)
LOL! I think we can all relate to that feeling. So inspiring!

Meredith said...

Haha, that had to have been so embarrassing! I've definitely made characters lie, and it never works out well.

mshatch said...

I admit, I lied a lot as a teen. But now I can't tell a lie worth a damn. I don't think I ever got caught out like you did, though. Yikes!

Ruth Josse said...

I am a horrible liar. I'm called out pretty quickly. As a kid, my friends and I did the whole pretend you're from another country thing. Maybe it's a right of passage.

My husband, on the other hand, has some very good lying stories. As a teenager he shaved the top of his head completely bald, leaving hair around the side like bald men have, and went to his friends house where he was introduced to a visitor as his friend's uncle. He was completely convincing and apparently looked much older as a bald man. The visitor bought it without a doubt.

Margo Berendsen said...

Oh that's funny and it sounds like something I would have done because I could totally pull off a British accent at that age! I'm trying to think back to a time when I got caught in one of my dramatic lies... I know there was at least one good one! Come on, memory...

Rachel Frost said...

Great post! I have to add that some people lie about some things so often that it becomes their own reality; they're lying to themselves as well as everyone else, and when that lie is exposed, it deepens the blow all the more.

However, lying can also save someone in dire circumstances, if they're really good at it.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

What a great story!

A guy I knew in high school was a pathological liar and I put that sort of character in my first book. I may use that type of character again sometime in a future project because I found it so intriguing!

Great post!


Stacy Henrie said...

That is HILARIOUS! I wish I could do a convincing British accent. :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

That's the funniest story.

I was never good at lying so I stopped early on. It wasn't worth the amount of trouble I'd get into.

David P. King said...

Okay, that was hilarious!

Can you believe I lied to a mall cop once? Caught in the act of harmless mischief? Yeah. Little boys and department stores don't mix.

Great post, Shallee! I'll check out your new youtube channel.

I've launched a giveaway today! :)

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