By Bil Lepp Copyright 2017
I have to say that I am professionally insulted by the standard of lies that have been making the news in past weeks. And though I don’t want to aid the competition, I feel compelled to share a few pointers on successful lying, so as to not tarnish the reputation lying in general.
I am five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest. I lie for a living. I stand in front of huge crowds. Huge. And tell them lies. They love it. They give me standing ovations that are very long. Very.
No, seriously, that is my job. I am a professional storyteller who specializes in tall-tales, fibs, and untruths. Look me up.
First, before you go in front of a huge audience, really big, you should write your lies down on paper and read through them to see if they make any sense. Any sense. You should have a few trusted associates look over the lies beforehand. Sometimes they can point out the flaws in your lies. Also, you may want your associates to know what lies you are planning to tell so they can be prepared to back those lies up, or at the very least, not contradict them.
After you write the lies down, you should rehearse them before saying them to large crowds of people. Or Tweeting them.
A good lie, by which I mean a successful lie, depends on you connecting with your audience in such a way that you build rapport with them. You need your audience to feel that you and they have something in common. And if you are going to tell a real doozey, you need to work up to it. Start by saying something the audience understands, or is familiar with, maybe something that is, if not true, at least honest.
That cunning witch from Scotland who wants your children to worship the Devil is good at this. She’ll start a book innocuously enough: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Totally believable statement, right? We understand that people live in houses and houses have addresses. She would not be a zillionaire had she begun with, “Once there was a boy who had a stick with a feather in it and he could wave it at stuff and say fake Latin and unlock locks and crush the dreams of a poor, misunderstood orphan named Voldemort who only wanted to control the world and be super evil.” This statement is harder to adjust to because it isn’t something most of us have experienced and so it seems a little dishonest.
I often start my lies with a simple truth like, “I have a dog.” Again, an easy statement to swallow. Lots of people are dog owners, or at least understand that people have dogs. There are no dog agnostics. I might be planning to tell you I once flew a train with my tongue, but I start by telling you I have a dog. One key to a good lie is gradual exaggeration.
For example, if you want to tell people that some widely believed scientific fact is hooey, you first must establish some kind of truth. Instead of saying, “There is no moon. It doesn’t exist. And any scientist who tells you the moon exists is a very bad scientist. Very. Bad. That scientist is likely paid by some liberal, vegetable eating, environmental think-tank that hates God, the USA and Russia. Also that scientist is likely a member of ISIS.”
See, that is a little too much to take in all at once. A little. Furthermore, it doesn’t establish a connection with a broad audience. [By Broad, I mean wide. Not just the ladies.] Also, it might be offensive to vegetable eaters. It is best not to start a lie by alienating a portion of your audience. A good lie requires building trust with your audience, and it is hard to build trust when you start with pugnacity.
You might start by saying, “There is this thing people call the moon.”
Your audience will accept this. They will nod in confirmation. You are drawing them in.
Next, try, “You may notice that at certain points during this moon’s so-called lunar cycle, it is not visible. It is usually not visible during the day, either.”
Who can dispute this? This is an experience of the moon we all have in common. But, more importantly, you are working toward a credible lie because you are sowing reasonable doubt. The audience has to admit- sometimes they just can’t see the moon.
They begin to trust you. You’re talking sense. And their imaginations start to hum in-tune with yours. They are starting to see the world your way.
Now that you have the audience thinking the way you need them to, you can launch into the more dramatic parts of your presentation: “So if you can’t see the moon part of the time then it obviously either isn’t real, or it is hiding because it is plotting a nasty attack. Nasty. And therefore we should build a wall to keep the moon out and make Mars pay for the wall, and then withdraw from the Solar System because, let’s face it, the rest of the planets just aren’t pulling their weight.”
See how much more believable your statements are now? I mean, heck, I just wrote the above lie and I know it’s not true, but I wrote it so well I’m already starting to believe it. Starting to believe your own lies can be dangerous. If you start to believe your own lies, then you begin to live in a fantasy world from which there is no escape. So, be careful about that.
Also, don’t go too far. For example, I said “…the rest of the planets just aren’t pulling their weight.” This statement goes against the laws of physics and so-called physicists like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, both of whom are doing amazing jobs and are getting recognized more and more, might get together and dispute your claims based on the pseudo-science of gravity, throwing your whole lie into question. One little step outside the context box and the credibility of your whole carefully crafted lie comes into question.