HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It's special guest day! And we are delighted to introduce you to--oh, wait. You already knew Terry Ambrose? You probably do--he not only writes the wonderful CRIME FICTION Examiner--but is also a mystery novelist in his own right.
And today--he's giving us a little tutorial--in Lying!
by Terry Ambrose
I doubt that there’s a single person alive who can say they’ve never told a lie. Some might stop with the little fibs—Yes, there is a Santa. No, that doesn’t make you look fat. Others will graduate to the more serious—No, officer, I didn’t see the light change. And, of course, the select few will escalate to the really serious stuff. As a fiction writer, I love writing about characters who tell lies for a living.
Quite frankly, I used to be really good at recognizing facial and body cues. I never graduated to the level where I could readily manipulate others, but that’s another story. I stopped practicing those skills years ago when I left my last “real job.” From a practical standpoint, once you get past the emotional guilt that telling a lie brings on, the difference between good and bad liars is much like a hitter’s batting percentage in baseball. Maybe you’re a .267 hitter. Or even .350? So, how could you, or the character in a book, improve that percentage?
First, a good lie is based on facts. The closer to the truth, the better. This might be classified as the sniff test. If it doesn’t smell like complete BS, the lie may fly.
Keep It Simple Stupid. This saying, which began in the aerospace industry to force engineers to make the planes they were designing easy to repair under combat conditions, also applies to telling a good lie.
The KISS principal is often misunderstood because what it really means is keep things as simple as they need to be, i.e., blend the complex with the simple and you’ve got a winner.
So what about those body cues I mentioned? This is where good liars shine.
In the years that I spent as a bill collector and skip tracer, I listened to a lot of lies. Little did I realize when I took the job, that I was going to get an education at “Liar U.” Later on in my career, I was fortunate enough to train with an industrial psychologist who taught me and a few others about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)—an amazing, and controversial, practice.
In Photo Finish, my protagonist, who is a former skip tracer, is taken in by a con artist who uses a variety of methods to cloak her lies. These methods include several body-language cues that help establish rapport with the hero. The con artist knows that if she establishes rapport first, everything else will be easier later on.
One of the techniques that helps to establish rapport is an open and erect body posture. By not coming across as defensive—arms crossed over chest, leaning into or encroaching on someone’s personal space, and avoiding stiffness in posture—the other person relaxes their guard.
Another step in the rapport-establishment process is maintaining eye contact. However, forcing the other person to break eye contact by getting into a staring contest can only lead to disaster. Instead of waiting for the other person to crumble by looking away, break the eye contact with a simple distraction such as a smile, gesture, or action.
There are many more techniques involved in NLP to help individuals learn how to establish rapport and communicate better, but leave it to a fiction writer to look beyond a discipline’s intended purpose to see the “dark side” and say, “What if?”
Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark to “help” when negotiations failed. A resident of Southern California, he loves spending time in Hawaii, especially on the Garden Island of Kauai, where he invents lies for others to read. His years of chasing deadbeats taught him many valuable life lessons such as—always keep your car in the garage.And here's a fun trailer about Photo Finish!