Liar, liar, pants on fire

When you were a kid, you were probably told that it was important to tell the truth. Calling someone a liar is a pretty big insult.

But lies have their value.

For instance, there are the little white lies that we all need for getting through life in a civilized manner. “Do you like my new haircut?” “Oh, yeah, you look great.”

If you think about it the right way, I lie for a living. After all, I write fiction–things that didn’t happen. And because I love fantasy so much, a whole lot of what I write couldn’t happen. Phoenixes? Wizards who can move oceans? Helpful imps? All lies, right? But where would any of us be without fiction?

Sometimes lies are motivational tools. Yeah, if I study really hard I totally won’t freak out over the exam.

Sometimes they help us survive the horrors of parenthood. When my older daughter was 5 and we were vacationing in Tahoe, she was sharing a room with her 2-year-old sister and would not settle down so the younger kid could sleep. We told her if she wasn’t quiet, she was going to have to sleep on the deck with the bears (she’d seen a piece of paper warning visitors about nearby bears). Hey, it worked. And we didn’t have an overtired toddler to contend with the next day.

Sometimes they help us survive the horrors of childhood. Um, my parents still don’t know the complete truth of my teenage years. Which is fine. I made it through.

But of course lies can also be nasty and destructive. I think the most dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves, like I can’t.

In Rattlesnake, Jimmy lies a lot. Mostly it’s harmless, entertaining even. He’s a storyteller–that’s pretty much how he gets by in life. But he’s been lying to himself, too. And some of those lies are going to cause him trouble….

When do you think it’s okay to lie?


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