The Dr. Phil Show recently aired an episode called The Truth about Liars. It served the listening audience with life skills on how to spot a liar. You can read about skills like this and other tools in Dr. Phil’s newest book, LIFE CODE.
But why should writers and illustrators care about this show(other than gaining a bonus life skill)?
Because Dr. Phil provides NEW WAYS TO SHOW, NOT TELL: The take-away bonus from the production is to use these “liars tells” as ways to show your character. Let your sneaky, scoundrel, crooked characters come to life.
Only 7% of what people say is part of the communication process. What they do screams what they’re thinking. The mind can think and the mouth can say, but it’s what the body does that tells the truth. The body language of your character can reveal so much, whether you’re writing first person or third person.
The Why Factor:
An important part in plot and character is to understand a character’s motivation.
Dr. Phil says people lie because they want:
1. To bridge gap between a person’s boring life and their fantasy life;
2. To get what they want;
3. To escape consequences.
Here are the top tips from Dr. Phil on HOW TO SPOT A LIAR. Weave them into your character’s actions and you’ll add texture and depth to your writing and illustrating process.
Use these Liar's Actions to Reveal Characters in your Novels :
· Liars answer questions not asked
· They get formal with language and stop using contractions
· They give too many unasked for details
· They FRAME the truth (i.e. They start sentence with, “Okay, to be completely honest…”)
· They say yes, but shake their head no, or they say no but shake head yes. (Why? Because they’re central nervous system takes over)
· They have facial tics, for example, they touch their nose or face a lot. They especially put a hand over mouth as a subconscious way to cover the lie
· They exhibit shallow breathing
· They purse their lips
· Blink rate increases
· Personal space is important to a liar (like they’ll put a piece of furniture between them, or they’ll use a purse or an object to have a barrier between them and the one asking the questions)
· A liar has a “busy” attitude; can’t find the time to help or answer questions
· A liar can’t give a recommendation of accountability (i.e. if they stole something and you say to them, "What do you think we should do to the person who stole this?" A liar can't come up with an idea; Typically a liar can’t bring themselves to make a recommendation on the consequence
Dr. Phil says there's a great book by Pamela Meyer called Lie Spotting if you want to find more ideas.