Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Lies Our Characters Believe & Why It Matters

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Our characters can be stubborn. Just when we think we know them inside and out, they toss us a wrench. We struggle to push them into a storyline that forces them to change and grow—or slide downhill as in the case of antagonists—then they behave contrary to how we sketched them.

We work hard at shaking them inside out to ensure they are unique, memorable, and fit the plot and genre. Our goal is to achieve the proper balance of complexity in an unpredictable story.

What causes characters to spin in the opposite direction?

Sometimes the problem with our characters is not what we believe about them, but what they believe about themselves.

Lies, big and little, influence the character’s dialogue, behavior, and how they journey through our story.

What are some of these lies? These pesky confidence-destroyers and killers of relationships, careers, views of God, and distorted truth stop our characters from reaching their full potential.

Your characters have a rich backstory that has molded and motivated them into who they are in chapter one, line one of the story. Every moment has the potential to create misconceptions about life.

For example, your character may believe:
  • I have no choice but to be perfect.
  • Life isn’t fair.
  • I’ll never be happy unless I have lots of money.
  • Everyone is out to get me.
  • God’s love must be earned.
  • Morals are a personal preference.
  • Relationships are 50/50. Any less and I’m outa here.
  • The only way for someone to love me is for me to take care of them.

See what I mean?

How characters respond and initiate action regarding their lies show who they are. You can use these additional internal issues to add stress, tension, and conflict to the story. Create situations that force characters to face their lies head-on and you demonstrate powerful crafting.

How does a writer find the resources to help their characters out of their psychological mess? I use psychology books, consult psychologists, and research quality websites that focus on human behavior and counseling techniques.

Writers may need to stick their characters into a chair and find out how and why they are misbehaving. When you discover what prompted their lies, establish means to get rid of them. The result is an unforgettable novel that will entertain and inspire readers.

What lies do your characters believe?

The Lies Our Characters Believe & Why They're Important to the Story - @DiAnnMills (Click to Tweet)

How characters respond & initiate action regarding their lies show who they are - @DiAnnMills (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook:, Twitter: or any of the social media platforms listed at


  1. I had this 'watershed' moment (I'm not sure what that means but I like the sound of it...) at an ACFW conference when I heard Susan May Warren talk about this. I think it might be the most direct way to get into the character's head, even when some of them are so good at hiding their secrets! Thanks DiAnn! Excellent post!

    1. Hi Debra, glad to be of help. Discovering the lie or lies for my characters sure has helped.

  2. Characters lying to themselves? No way! If they do, it means they are human and rounded. Good job!
    Great post, DiAnn, as usual.

    1. Hi Ingmar, imagine that! Real, complex characters. :) Thanks!