Two Truths and a Lie

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.

63 thoughts on “Two Truths and a Lie

  1. I love the idea of using 2 truths and a lie when developing a new character. Stealing that one, Kathy! And I confess, I hate when I’m asked to share something about myself that no one knows. I feel like I’m such an open book I’ve already blabbed everything remotely interesting. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yes, excellent idea, Kathy!

      I agree with you, Annette. When asked about what makes me unique, I have a hard time answering. I don’t think it’s because I’m an open book–it’s more like I’m not sure if I have interesting things to reveal.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. We played that for years in the organization I taught for. SO MUCH fun, and you do learn a lot about people! The trick is to pick a truth so unlikely it sounds like a lie. So are my bookish ones:
    1. I was asked to edit a book funded and published by the Emir of Kuwait.
    2. My master’s thesis was titled Elizabethan Mousetraps: Finding Clues in Shakespeare’s Plays
    3. I was hired to write hotel reviews for a well-known European travel guide.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Leslie and Jennifer–only *apparently* amazing.
        1. TRUE, but the book was terrible. The author took none of my suggestions. I was embarrassed to have my name in the acknowledgments.
        2. FALSE! Although the title of my thesis comes from a book in Ivor Tweedy’s famous library in The Art of Betrayal, along with Lemons to Lemonade: Paint Spills on Chinese Export Porcelain and Cloning the Pharaohs: Another Jurassic Park?
        3. TRUE, but I’d hardly been hired when the publication went under. Never even received a paycheck.

        Liked by 5 people

  3. I don’t ask 2 Truths and a Lie, but I do frequently ask what my characters are hiding. Like Annette, I don’t much care for the “tell something about yourself no one knows” for much the same reason – I’m pretty sure everybody knows everything already!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. We played that from time to time at my previous job, Kathy. Always entertaining! As for me,
    1. There was that time I fell out of the back of a truck traveling down a highway and lived to tell the tale.
    2. There was that time I did a few laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 180 miles per hour.
    3. And then, there was that time I got picked with a bunch of other people to go onstage and sing back up for Jimmy Buffett while he performed Margaritaville.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. SO close, Leslie. Actually number 3 is the lie. Though I was in attendance at a Buffett show when he let about 20 people up on stage to sing backing vocals. I was WAY back in the lawn, so no stage glory for me.
        As for number two, about ten years I got to take a ride in an IndyCar 2-seater for three laps around IMS and we did top out at about 180 mph. Those three laps were enough to teach me that, despite my dreams, I don’t have what it takes to be a racecar driver. Such a thrill, though.

        Liked by 6 people

      2. I’m not so sure about daredevil, Jen. 😅 The first one was a drunken college misadventure. Someday, I’ll have to share with you all how that massive screw up on my part helped me teach my kids not to pick their noses!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I like to go with every character has a secret for my books. Every secret may or may not be important to the plot, but I have it waiting in the wings if I need it.
    On another note, people who ask me personal questions in a public setting are a pet peeve of mine, especially at work. My gut response is nunya, but of course if I say that, I’m creating an impression that I was forced to create. I can always respond with some feel-good BS, but that’s a loss of integrity. Work meetings should be about work. If I want my coworkers to know me personally, I’ll make an overture. Or not…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m leaving a comment so I’ll be notified when Connie and JC’s secrets are revealed. I would take a guess, but I wonder if my guesses would reveal too much about myself. 🙂

    I do try to give each suspect a secret, sometimes to do with the crime, but sometimes not.

    Something weird about myself? I, too, could catalog them. Here’s one: I love rocks! I have them on my window sills and shelves and often pick them up on vacation.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Gosh, I think everyone knows everything about me already! And it’s all weird, lol. But okay, I’ll play: In college I read the evening news for WCFM, “Voice of the Berkshires,” straight off the AP-wire. The first breaking story I was handed was the Jim Jones/KoolAid tragedy. I was so nervous I delivered it in an overly-perky manner.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Like Annette, I always have to laugh at this game because I’m pretty sure by now everyone knows everything about me! As for my characters, as I’m outlining, I know the secrets everyone is keeping, as well as their lies. I find that coming up with them is oodles of fun!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Great idea to play the two truths and a lie game with my characters, Kathy! I do try to come up with secrets for all of them, but that’s a great way to flesh out the details of their lives.

    What makes me uneasy is when I’m asked what is my biggest fear. Because what if the person then uses that fear against me at some later time, like in some horrible nightmare? (Hmmmm….maybe I’ve just come up with a plot point for a story….)

    Liked by 4 people

  10. The two truths and a lie game is great for creative brainstorming. Thanks for the tip, Kathy!

    As for real life, I do like playing it and finding out things about the people around me. The hardest is playing the game in our family. How do we hide facts when we live around and interact with each other all the time? And the kids often cry foul if I mention something from before they were born: “That’s not fair because you know my *whole* life, but I don’t know yours!”

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Kathy, I love using this for characters and like Annette, I’ll be stealing it! Julie Anne Lindsey now does a Fibbing Author Friday post every Friday. Here were my two and one:
    1. Shirley MacLaine gave me brandy for my cramps.
    2. I once bartended with Paul Newman.
    3. When I worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, she offered me a fulltime job and I turned it down to focus on writer. Dumb me!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Going with bartending with Paul as the lie, as I can’t imagine you wouldn’t have bragged about that to all of us before if it were true! (I did see Paul drive by in a VW bug once, as his daughter lives here in Santa Cruz–very exciting!)

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Ellen, I hope that bartending with Paul Newman is true — but if it is I’m extremely jealous! Sticking with the famous theme, here are my three:
      1. I met Gloria Steinem
      2. I met Tom Selleck
      3. I shook hands with Jerry Lee Lewis

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Number 3 is the lie! I did snap a quick photo of Jerry Lee Lewis leaving the local courthouse when I was a newspaper reporter. But, he wasn’t looking too happy and he was carrying a walking stick — so I didn’t approach him!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. This is my favorite Chick on the Case to date! First there’s the inside scoop on the lives of folks admire. Then there’s the fun of “borrowing” this technique to use in my own writing. Many thanks for the chuckles and the info

    Liked by 2 people

  14. We did Two Truths a few months back as an ice breaker at work. I thought I’d fool them with one of my truths (being a character in six different novels), but they figured that one out as a truth.

    Liked by 2 people

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