Saturday, September 15, 2012

Liar, Liar

Liar, liar, pants on fire
Hanging on a telephone wire.

Okay, I really don’t know what that little ditty means and when I turned to the Internet to figure it out, it wasn't much help. But we’ve all heard it, most likely even said it, at some point in our life. I don't make lying a practice in my life (and I hope you don't either) but let's face it, we sometimes need our characters to be able to tell a believable tall tale.

I recently heard about a book written by Janine Driver (with Mariska Van Aalst) called You Can't Lie to Me.  Driver, a” lie detection expert for the FBI, CIA, and ATF,” helps readers recognize when people are telling the truth and when those around you aren’t delivering it straight up. I haven’t read the book, but I think I may check it out. It sounds interesting  first because I’m a parent and I think it would come in handy. I also think it could benefit my writing by making my characters more authentic.

 As writers, we are always playing with characters, developing them, tweaking them, making them unique and memorable. I am a fairly new writer and I have some ideas of unusual or creative places to go to help flesh out characters, but I wonder what you do? What books, magazines, television shows, websites, or other sources do you use to make characters with believable ticks, habits, and mannerisms?
Nikki Studebaker Barcus


  1. I use the Donald Maas workbook. It just works for me. And I use people in my life I've known through the years. For physical attributes I look for people on google images that I think look like my characters and print them out and make a foldable poster to tuck in my laptop case and refer to it often. I love creating people!

  2. I am a people watcher at work, and also like listening to bits and pieces of conversation. Sometimes I think real life might is funnier than fiction, such as the time one of my co-workers, J-Dub told me he never hurried at work. "They don't pay us enough to run, Annie. Maybe kinda glide a little, but not run." Stuff like that. As for physical traits, I like Google images, too, but also people in catalogs and magazines.

  3. Nikki,

    I actually use a very detailed character sheet to help with that. It includes their favorite foods, their choices in music, etc. Also, hearing the characters speak and putting a little spin on it adds. On occassion, I have one character reply to a statement "Get out of here!" The only person I know who makes the same statement in the same setting is naturalist Jack Hanna. I have another character respond when asked if somebody had contacted her, "You know he did, Honey."


  4. Good stuff, Jeff, Ann, and Karla. I think writers are usually people watchers, don't you? We are always storing little snip-its in our minds.

    Thanks for sharing,