Day-to-day life does not have subtitles. If it did, I’m sure there would plenty of things I would have to reflect on. Did that student lie to me about having a doctor’s appointment? Was that really a hall pass or did they forge it between classes? There’s this spectrum of truth that I think we may over embellish within our daily lives, which is much easier to see in the contents of a book than the 3D nature of life.

Take for example this paragraph:

“Yes.” Emphatically yes. Shards of memory remain: a flash of swords in twilit alleyway in the remilitarized zone. Blood in the fountains. “I was an academic. A member of the professoriat.” An array of firewalled assembler gates, lined up behind the fearsome armor of a customs checkpoint between polities. Pushing screaming, imploring civilians toward a shadowy entrance-“I taught history.” That much is-was-true.” It all seems boring and distant now.” The brief flash of an energy weapon, then silence. “I was getting stuck in a rut, and I needed to refresh myself. I think.” (Stross 3)

While reading, you get this obvious conflict between dialogue and thoughts, how he tells his companion that he was a history professor when really he’s thinking about how he used to be a soldier, fighting in a war. I like the clear opposition. Professors are boring; soldiers are frightening. Through his adjectives, you can tell this is the idea that Stross is going for, and I really appreciate it.

And I think this should be a common technique for writers. Nobody always tells the truth. Almost no one, and if they did, I’m not sure they’d be human. To err is human, or however the quote goes. So I think characters should at least lie about something, and this is a good way how to do it: Create direct conflict between dialogue and reflection.

I would also create reflection on the lies afterward to create motive – why are you lying? How is it important? What’s the alternative?

These should be explained to the reader because after that, you have purpose. You have a story!

Stross, C. Glasshouse. New York, NY: Ace, 2006. Print.


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