Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lindsay Townsend: When should the heroine tell lies?

When is it OK for a heroine to lie?

In my medieval historical romance, To Touch the Knight, my heroine, Edith, is a liar. She lies to save herself and her fellow-villagers. She makes an illusion in order to survive. Does that make her evil?

To me it does not. But heroines in romantic fiction tend to have less leeway than heroes.

Take a hero who sows his wild oats. That is seen as normal, possibly even considerate, as he will then be experienced when making love to the virginal heroine. But how many hearts has he broken on the way?

Take a hero who is driven, obsessed, vengeful. 'Yum yum!', perhaps, is the response of some romance readers. But I wonder what happens when that engine of revenge is spent. What then? And if the hero is obsessed will he not remain obsessive? That energy, once he and the heroine are together, may be diverted into other things. He will no longer be a driven lover, but what?

Can the truly vengeful have a happy ever after ending?

What of the heroine who is driven and ambitious? Why is that seen as something to be diluted in her but not in the hero?

As a romance writer, I love a happy ever after end. To ensure it I look forward into my characters' lives, projecting them far into their futures. Will they still be content in old age? Will their different characteristics still mesh?

When couples remain and stay together they tend to end any disputes with tolerance and laughter, a mutual appreciation and understanding. This is what I like to show in my romances - the start of that process.

So, as To Touch The Knight progresses, Edith realizes she can tell Ranulf the truth. That trust from her is vital.

Ranulf also realizes that his grief for his late wife is also laced by guilt and resentment that he needs to lose.

Edith accepts him and realizes he believes more in the church than she does. She respects that, even as she begins to question her own hard-headed, practical way of always looking at the world.

Ranulf accepts that she told lies and accepts why she did so. He forgives her - though to Edith he has nothing to forgive.

I'm with Edith. How about you?

Lindsay Townsend


Linda Acaster said...

I agree that Romance has evolved into a two level, unequal system - but that is what the genre now is.

As to whether lying is ever justified by a Romance heroine... give me a Miss Goody-TwoShoes and I'll give you unrealistic character.

But there are degrees, and motivation is all. 'You look lovely in that dress.' may seem inoccuous enough, but it depends whether it comes from the mouth of a friend easing a disasterous purchase, or from the mouth of a sales assistant thinking only of her commission.

Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree about context and motivation, Linda.

Sherry said...

If she thinks she has nothing to forgive, him forgiving her is patronizing. If she thinks the lie is a reasonable response but understands that it is wrong --i.e. why she found the courage to tell the truth because she knew it was important to tell him the truth (i.e. risk alienating affection for the sake of true intimacy), then she did seek forgiveness even if the thought itself was not solidified in her mind.

Allison Knight said...

I can think of some heroines who've lied, especially to the hero. I'll agree completely with Linda. It's the motivation that counts. If she's lying to protect herself, a child, the people she loves, and we understand why she's doing it - good. We can be sympathetic and root for her.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Sherry and Allison,
My heroine lies to protect herself and her fellow villagers, some of whom are women and children, all of whom look to her for support.

Jenny Twist said...

In fiction anything goes. I don't think the author is making a moral statement. If the character lies, that's part of her character. Whether the author or the reader approves is irrelevant. Real people do lie. So should fictional ones if they're to be believable.

Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree, Jenny. Fiction should reflect real life.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Interesting question, Lindsay - definitely agree it depends if the heroine has a noble reason for lying, in which case the reader should be rooting for her.

Rose Anderson said...

Interesting question. People lie for many reasons. My own white lie has to do with taking phone calls when I'm in the middle of writing. Say I'm in the shower, say I'm not home, say I'm taking a nap. If only "She's writing right now and prefers not to stop for a call at this point in the story" was good enough for some people. In my experience not everyone understands this. I'll get, "this will only take a moment, then you can go back to writing."
What writer can break stride like that and returns to the work with the same thought? Not I. It doesn't happen often, but when it does I feel bad about it. I've tried to explain how writing works. In the end, I'd rather take the lie on myself, than have the person who doesn't understand my creation process feel they aren't WORTH my time when they want my time. Of course they have value to me, however interruptions can set a story back to a point of babbling nonsense and I can't have that in my novels.

My soul baring said, I think our literary characters should be as relateable as we can make them. Humans sometimes lie, and although it doesn't make it right, sometimes the reasons have kind motivation behind them.

If you call, I'm in the shower and I'll call back later. ;)

Ana E Ross said...

I really enjoyed your interview. Sometimes it is necessary to lie--the reasons your heroine lied were credible--to help someone.

The heroine in the first book in my series lied to the hero, but she confessed halfway through the book. He forgave her and asked if there was anything else she lied about. She hadn't, but she withheld vital information that would cause him to walk away when he discovered her secret.

Of course, he eventually returned, but the point is, our heroines are people too. They do stupid things like we do in real life, but they are redeemable and learn from their mistakes. So let them lie and up the stakes.

Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree, Ana! Your story sounds great - what's its title, please, and the title of the series?

Rose your comment made me smile but it's a serious matter. I agree that when a writer is on a creative 'roll' then it's crazy to break off and a little white lie is very useful!

Ella M. Kaye said...

A lie is a wonderful story technique! Not only does it show the character of the liar (or the one who doesn't lie in general but does for a good reason) but also the character of the one deceived.

I tend to use the lying to oneself arc more than lying to another because I think it's harder to come back from that and it affects those around the character just as much, if subtly.

Maggi Andersen said...

If there's good reason for the lie and it doesn't reveal her character as untrustworthy. I'm trying to remember if Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind ever lied. She got away with a lot, didn't she.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Ella - the lying to oneself is very subtle, and, as you say, hard to recognise or come back from.

Maggi, I imagine Scarlett did! (She seems to have done almost everything else.)

Janice Seagraves said...

My female characters lie all the time. In my depute book the hero asked the heroine "Are you looking at my arse?"

She jerked her eyes up. "No, she lied.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Lovely lie, Janice!