At work, the managers like to end our weekly meeting with a thought-provoking, let’s-really-get-to-know-each-other question. This week’s theme: name something weird or surprising about yourself.
My response: How would you like my list of weirdness? Alphabetically? Chronologically? Small to large? Mundane to outrageous?
I have a lot of material.
I could have talked about how my fingers are so double-jointed that I have to concentrate during a thumbs-up so as not to overextend and alarm bystanders. Or my penchant for turning any pair of socks into running socks, thusly:
Then there’s my unreasonable love for licorice (black, naturally), my fear of ladybugs, the voice I use when talking to dogs…the list goes on.
I went with my long and storied history of sleepwalking. Which, of course, led to my long, drawn-out dissertation on the sleep-murder defense and its merits and drawbacks.
You could have heard a pin drop. Or maybe a dagger.
All of which is to say, you can tell a lot about someone by what they tell about themselves. In many ways, we’re our own tattletales. It’s an aspect of human nature that comes in handy for interviewing detectives. And mystery authors.
When I create a new character, I conduct my own icebreakers. My favorite to employ: Two Truths and a Lie.
For the uninitiated, Two Truths and a Lie is when you tell someone three things about yourself, two of which are true and one of which, well, isn’t. It’s a fun way to test people’s knowledge of you or what they *think* they know. And it’s a great way to suss out the inner workings of a character.
Will a character reveal or hide his or her truths? What motivations (and secrets and fears) drive these decisions? Which aspects of the past will be gilded to impress or tarnished by bad blood, an injured ego or a personal (or professional) vendetta? How easy will it be to discern truth from lie and how will others in the story, as well as the reader, separate narrative wheat from chaff?
It’s an interesting exercise, one that helps shape not only my characters, but also their relationships with one another. After all, a relationship built on a lie, even just one, is apt to show cracks when the ground inevitably begins to shift.
So I’m curious…Do you look for a character’s truths and lies? Have you ever played Two Truths and a Lie or another icebreaker? Do you have a go-to answer to “tell me something weird/surprising about you”? Let’s hear it, whether it’s a truth or a lie.